The Cookie May Crumble With 'Do Not Track' List


Today, a group of privacy groups declared war on advertisers by asking the Federal Trade Commission to establish an online Do Not Track list similar to the offline Do Not Call list. The Consumer Federation of America and the World Privacy Forum, among others, want marketers to stop using cookies which enable behavioral targeting.

There has been much debate on the merit of cookies and their use to track online behavior. Marketers argue it makes the online experience better because ads are more closely targeted to the individual. Privacy advocates claim advertisers have no business collecting information about where on the internet someone has gone unless consent has been given.

It's a sticky situation for sure. Cookies help keep ads relevant and, not to be forgotten, aid in making a person's web experience better by remembering an individual's set up preferences for a particular site as well as shopping cart contents and to allow access to password protected sites without having to re-enter login information each time.

Some of the reasoning behind anti-cookie movements are due to misconceptions. While we hope the cause groups in question have done their homework, many people incorrectly believe cookies are spyware and/or viruses when, in fact, they're harmless text files. From a privacy standpoint, people probably should be able to control whether and how their online behavior is tracked. From a simplicity standpoint, the establishment of a Do Not Track function, at least at the outset, could cause confusion and bewilderment until people realize cookies can actually be good and aren't the privacy killing mechanisms some paint them to be.

Still, there's no harm in exploring the cookies place in online marketing and, as a result, other methods that don't tread too heavily on people's right to privacy.

Written by Steve Hall    Comments (3)     File: Online, Opinion, Policy, Tools     Oct-31-07  
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Wanna bet the TV networks are part of this?

If they didn't prod the privacy groups into this action I'm sure they'll provide support now that the effort appears to be gaining traction.

Like a gift from above.

Posted by: pat smith on October 31, 2007 06:25 PM

Cookies should be like e-mail - a person should be able to "opt-out."

With that said, I personally wouldn't want to opt out of any of my current personal cookies; they save me time and inconvenience in having to rekey the same information over and over again.

The people behind the "Do Not Track" movement must not be very computer literate, otherwise they would see the benefit in cookies also.

Just my .02...

Posted by: Helchat on October 31, 2007 06:44 PM

Okay, so maybe I'm missing something here but...everyone already has the ability to block cookies in their own browser. So why do we need government regulation or some political advocacy group to set up an organization or system for something that is already easily done. Maybe they should spend their time teaching people who are interested, how to block their cookies via their basic browser menus.

Posted by: John on November 1, 2007 09:02 AM

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