They are delicious, come in different flavors, can be crunchy or doughy, and go well with nearly any occasion. They also help with targeting, allow advertisers to display relevant ads, and provide insight into user browsing histories on the web. Fortunately, or unfortunately, this post talks about the latter of the two. So what are cookies besides those things we say we won't eat then eat when no one is looking? Cookies are targeting tags sent from an online ad to the user's web browser, allowing advertisers to gain information on user activity. What cookies do is not only provide information to advertisers about internet users and what they do online, but also track the user's online activity after the cookie has been placed. Cookies are a great tool for advertisers because they allow us to re-target consumers who have already expressed an interest in the product we are selling, while also allowing us to compile information on the user as long as the cookie is active. Unfortunately, more recently it's become a fad to DELETE your cookies as to protect your privacy from creepy advertisers who want to learn more about you. In some ways it is a little creepy, but in our defense'?¦ I have always been a huge fan of JetBlue Airlines. I'm a True Blue member, I enjoy my personal TV, I enjoy not trying to sit in a seat half my size (no offense United Airlines), and I enjoy being able to pick my own seat ahead of time so I can sit with my friends and not have to battle with strangers (no offense SouthWest Airlines). Why do you care? You don't care, but you should. See, JetBlue has been creepin on (aka re-targeting) me for months now. They find me on nearly every site I visit, across the span of the entire internet. They target me because I go to their site sometimes to check out cheap flights for when I go to visit friends in other cities. If it took clicks on an ad to get upgraded to first class (even though on JetBlue everyone is first class), I would be flying the plane by now, because I click on the ads almost every time I'm targeted. Why? Because they are constantly updating me with new deals, newly discounted flights and special offers. Why do I get to see these awesome offers without having to go to the site? Because I don't delete my cookies. Believe it or not, because I am going to be served the ad anyway, I actually PREFER to be re-targeted so at least I'm seeing ads for JetBlue and Nike instead of Gucci and Cadillac. I figure as long as I'm going to be forced to see ads, they might as well be something that I am or might potentially (that will be taught in Re-Targeting 102) be interested in. So don't delete your cookies. All it's going to do is guarantee that you will never see an ad that might be at least slightly interesting to you. HELP ME, HELP YOU!
Should the Internet be governed? This is a very contemporary, and pivotal, choice that will guide the future of the Web. Over the next few weeks, we will be discussing the issues that are inspiring the industry to answer this question: who has the authority? Part 1: Online Privacy Recently, the FTC resurfaced an online privacy proposal which would establish a Do Not Track list. This legislation (think: telemarketers' Do Not Call list, but for digital) would allow online shoppers to opt-out of behavioral advertisements which 'follow'? them around the Web'storing cookies with information about their shopping and browsing habits. Ultimately, this list would be exhaustive, saving consumers from then having to make website-to-website opt-out decisions. Although, currently, there are many tools available to prevent sites from storing cookies (through plug-ins or browser settings), some sites'mainly Google'continue to log IP addresses which link consumers to their search queries. Despite this, a lack of privacy has become mainstream and acceptable. Consistently, now, users are making the choice to concede some of their privacy to public domain. A recent study proves this decreasing concern in digital security (only 54% of consumers are concerned with online privacy, versus 65% in 2008). From this changing consumer sentiment, open source intelligence is possible. 'Hackers'? have begun to compile publicly available information on a large scale. Most notably, a Boston-based start-up has begun an initiative to compile public information in order to predict future events. Predicting crimes that have yet to happen seems like something right out of 1984'and Google and the CIA are both investors in this web-monitoring company. My conspiracy theories aside, the bottom line is that, counter to intuition, many marketers are actually for the implementation of this protective legislation. They see the Do Not Track list as a concession of some control over to consumers'as well as a catalyst for best practices within the industry. Others however see a risk of hindering online experiences by limiting the way product recommendations and behavioral ads are crafted. Could this devolve internet advertising back a decade or could this be a method for instilling consumer confidence in a commercial Internet? A Point of View Recognizing all these factors, I actively choose to give up some of my privacy for convenience. When looking through web history information Google had stored from my account, I can see every product I searched for over the past year, what sponsored links I clicked on, and accompanying trending charts of my activity. Undoubtedly intrusive, but 100% transparent. The advantages of targeted advertising are apparent (the advert provider knows what I'm looking for and continually improves upon their recommendation), and for me, and a growing number of consumers, this benefit of relevancy outweighs the cost of privacy. Being a relatively digitally savvy consumer, I know that with a few clicks I could make myself mostly untrackable online (and avoid exposure to Internet advertisements altogether) without the intervention of government regulation. However, it cannot be assumed that this is a task that the majority of consumers are capable of. It should be an industry-wide best practice to consider the consumer naivety that still remains and to pursue full disclosure within a digital strategy. As this dialogue continues, it is important that we remain educated as the Internet morphs into an increasingly intelligent entity. Need a suggestion on where to start? Check out the graphical exposure index the Wall Street Journal recently built which allows you to see how popular sites are actively monitoring their viewers.