Me No Want Cookie

Let’s begin this week with something that caught my eye at the tail end of last week.  It was an announcement in Media Post with the headline [x+1] Finds Way Around Third-Party Cookie Rejection.  For those of you unfamiliar with the nuances of cookies, a third-party cookie is a little tracking file placed by a site other than the one you’re visiting.  In other words, if you come to Keith Ritter Media to figure out how to hire me and my site places a cookie from a site where I’m hosting an image, thereby enabling that site to track your web browser, I’ve placed a third-party cookie.

The announcement is important for two reasons – first, many ad networks use third-party cookies to track users across sites (my site’s cookie is useless to any other site) for targeting purposes; second, because some browsers default to disallowing third-party cookies and lots of other users have set their browsers to do the same.  Kind of makes one wonder about the announcement – here’s why.

Here are two statements from the article:

About 15% of user browsers reject third-party cookies. Apple’s Safari comes that way as a default, for example. While the browser will not accept third-party cookies, few consumers reject first-party cookies because the Web site they visit will not allow them to search for information on the site.

In October, [x+1] released a Web services API for its “data management platform” (DMP) that allows the company to bypass the need to drop a cookie in a Web browser to track page views and serve up ads.

So even though consumers have said “don’t track me”, this company and all marketers who use its technology are going to do so anyway.  If the sites that employ this disclose its use at all, one would imagine it’s buried deep within the privacy policy.  One of my thoughts for 2012 is that privacy, already a hot issue, is going to become a more mainstream issue for consumers this year.  As I put on my marketing hat, I recognize why this sort of tracking is helpful but why not make it opt-in?  Some consumers like the fact that they’re only seeing ads for things of potential interest.  Do I think it’s creepy I get email from Amazon or Williams-Sonoma a few days after I checked something out in their store but didn’t buy?  You bet, and I wish it had been something that was opt-in.

The digital economy is here to stay – we need to start behaving like grown-ups.  Tracking consumers wothout their consent is childish.  You with me on that?

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