Tag Archives: HTTP cookie

Taking “No” For An Answer

Suppose your car dealer put a device in every vehicle they sold that would allow the dealer to know where you’ve been.

English: This is a icon for Firefox Web Browser.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe they’d bury something deep in the owner’s manual that explained what it was and how to turn it off, but how many people really read the car’s manual cover to cover? Of course, such things do exist – the OnStar service tracks you, as does the smart phone you have in the vehicle much of the time. The “creepy” factor is off the chart but unless you’re a criminal it’s not something we think about a lot. It doesn’t really affect you (at least not until you’re in an accident and the “black box” data from the vehicle is used to raise your insurance rates!).  I don’t think, however, you’d be very happy, especially not if you don’t have OnStar or keep your phone on to prevent the tracking.

I bring this up because the digital ad industry is in a panic over the announcement by Mozilla the other day.  They announced that new versions of the Firefox browser would block third-party cookies, those little bits of code ad networks use to build profiles of your web surfing.  The Safari browser has done this for a while, and as I wrote a year ago, researchers found out that the ad guys were going to great lengths to get around the blocking.  There were other nefarious things going on as well.   Some folks used “history-sniffing” to figure out which sites users visited in order to compile marketing profiles of them. Ad networks and other companies that use the technology are able to determine which sites users have previously visited.

Now many observers are speculating how the trackers will get around the privacy measures being implemented.  The Chrome browser allows you to turn off the tracking although it’s not a default setting, and there have been add-ons available for all browsers that did it for a long time.  Maybe it’s time to reiterate the point.

People don’t like you to follow them around unless you’ve been invited.  Not on the street.  Not in their car.  Not on the web.

That’s about as plain and common-sense as I can state it.  I don’t think many of you would disagree.  Yes, I completely understand the content/value equation – you’re giving me free content and in return I’m giving you access to a little data about me so you can sell ads.   Why not make that blatantly obvious to every user?  Maybe when I get to a site an overlay should say “Welcome!  You have cookies turned off so we’re guessing you don’t want us to track you.  Fair enough.  Click here to pay us $1 or click here to enable cookies and access the site for free.”  It’s now MY choice.

As one article said:

It doesn’t mean that circumventing settings in order to track people is a good idea. If nothing else, it violates users’ assumptions about how their data is being collected and used. When they discover the truth — as they inevitably will — some proportion will be more inclined than ever to support restrictions on companies.

In other words, place nice, be transparent, and treat your customers like adults.  Take “no” for an answer and move on.  Otherwise, some legal authority will move you on.  Is that really so hard?

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Filed under Consulting, digital media, Reality checks, What's Going On

Who Doesn’t Like Cookies?

I know it’s not Friday, but let’s ask about cookies today.  Who doesn’t like a nice cookie?  Well, if you believe a recent survey, almost no one.  Web cookies, that is.  The folks at Econsultancy ran a survey and found that just 23% of web users would say yes to cookies.  They asked based on some new rules about cookie-based tracking that are going in to place in the E.U. and part of those rules will be much greater visibility to users about what tracking is going on:

That 69% of survey respondents are aware of what cookies are and why websites use them may cheer some marketers, but it still leaves a large chunk of web users that may react with puzzlement when they see messages about cookies and privacy on the website they visit.

It also found that a good chunk of users are already managing their cookies via browser settings and that 17% of users won’t accept cookies under any circumstances.  Roughly 60% of users might take a cookie but they’ll need to understand why they should.  In short, it’s the “what’s in it for me” test.  I don’t buy that consumers are happy when they see more targeted ads, which is sometimes cited as a reason why cross-domain tracking is a good thing.  I think the “creepy” factor is off the charts, frankly.  Saving site settings for improve a shopping experience or allowing a site to count visitors and understand site usage might be OK in most folks’ minds – it is in mine – but the survey found that any use that isn’t related to a user’s concerns doesn’t pass the smell test.

I keep waiting for the year in which everyone is going to get serious about balancing privacy concerns with the need for data.  The fact that we’re still amazed when unscrupulous people sell “undeletable” cookies and even businesses that use these services claim no knowledge about what a privacy invasion they are is ridiculous.  Maybe this is the year, although what the E.U. is doing is not really a great solution.  Still, as an industry, if we’re not going to act with users in mind, their representatives are going to force imperfect solutions in the absence of grown-up behavior.

Sour milk with those cookies?

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Filed under digital media, Huh?

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. Continue reading

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Filed under digital media, Helpful Hints

You Know What They Mean

Another report of marketing brilliance (sarcasm alert) from the digital world. This time it’s a report that ad networks are continuing to track users who opt out based on the flimsiest of reasoning. As a consumer, I’m not surprised and not pleased. As a person who works in digital marketing, I’m appalled since this is exactly the sort of behavior that leads to more rules and less innovation. It puts an entire industry in a bad light even though it’s a few bad apples and not everyone.  But I’ll lay out the fact and let you decide if I’m overreacting. Continue reading

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