Saturday, January 26, 2013

Plenty of milk, but out of cookies

            Besides being a delicious baked good, a cookie is a text file stored on the computer/tablet/browsing device for tracking purposes. This text file is stored by the websites that you visit, and are used to provide a better and more unique web browsing experience. The best definition of a cookie found online is:
Cookies contain a small amount of anonymous information that allows a website to know that you have visited in the past, responded to a campaign, or had x items in your cart (which allows the site to retain those items in your cart the next time you come). And other such users. Cookies are always set on behalf of the website owner. For example, they'll explicitly implement a tracking solution (like SiteCatalyst, comScore), typically via JavaScript tags, or an advertising solution (like DoubleClick, Kenshoo) or social buttons/commenting systems. (1)
            The cookies are not interchangeable, meaning that cannot access or utilize the cookies stored by Only can access the cookie and vice versa. The type of information that would store in a cookie file is which ESPN pages you have visited, which teams are your favorite, how often you visit the site, how long are your visits, and what types of events or stories you periodically search for on their site. Since only has access to this info, is unable to obtain this info.
            The intention of this stored information is for the websites to help you find what you are looking for quicker and with greater ease. For example if you find a new cake recipe on a website, a cookie will be stored on your computer so that you will find that recipe quicker the next time you are searching for it. These cookies do not contain any personal information about who you are, what your credit card number is, or whom you voted for in the last election. Since this stored info only pertains to your online visits, there is nothing to fear let along the overly dramatic references to “Big Brother” when discussing cookies and website tracking. In fact when you go out to eat at a restaurant and give the server your credit card to pay for your meal, you are actually give out more of your personal information to the server than the information stored from the websites that you visit (5).
            The problem now with the cookie is that over the pond in the European Union, a policy has been implemented call the ePrivacy directive. What this directive has determined is that websites now must receive consent from the website visitor prior to storing cookies and traffic history of the visitor. Because of the vague nature of the directive, each member nation has interpreted the directive differently. Some countries are not enforcing or changing anything of the Internet experience, while other countries are requiring website to receive consent, and many other countries are not allowing certain types of cookies to be stored at all. What this is doing is negatively impacting the Internet and its potential for everyone connected. Because cookies are not being stored, the websites will become less efficient and less customized to each visitor.
            More people are expecting their experiences on the Internet to be customized to who they are, what they like, and what they want to access. This can no longer happen if more and more countries deem cookies to be considered private information and thus require consent from the user. This is not what Al Gore had envisioned when he created and developed the Internet. This is not what our generation has come accustomed to. We are a generation of entitlement. This is the age where we want to be treated as unique snowflakes, and no longer like the sheep or drones of past generations. What the EU has accomplished is not the protection of privacy, but destroyed, or at the very least impeded, the progress that was ushered by the Internet. What needs to happen is the revolution of the cookie, where cookies can be free to roam and be stored on visitors’ computers. For without the cookie, where can I find my lost cake recipe?

5.     Podcast: “Beyond Web Analytics”-Episode 1

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