The Cookie War

Raise your hand if you act like The Sesame Street Cookie Monster when you see a plate of fresh baked cookies…

How about Internet cookies? How do you feel about those? Do you understand what they are and how they continue to evolve to make your surfing and searching experience better online? Hmm, so what are cookies? Cookies are small files that websites put on your PC to store information about you and your preferences. Cookies can make your browsing experience better by letting sites remember your preferences or letting you avoid signing in each time you visit certain sites.

Are all cookies safe? Not necessarily. Is it considered ethical to have your every move tracked? It depends on the user and how their privacy is customized to block cookies from certain pages.

One argument will state that cookies are a necessity to marketers in order to gauge a consumers’ interest by knowing the pages they visit and the length of time of such visits. You can always see where cookies are stored on your laptop and/or any other device that has an IOS with directories that you can easily access and see which site placed a cookie on your device. These stored values are called name-value pair and identifies you by a site assigned value and any other information created by the site. They are all text values. Here’s an example taken from my laptop at work:

search-ms:displayname=Search%20Results%20in%20Local%20Disk%20(C%3A)&crumb=location:C%3A%5C\Cookies

This shows that I conducted a search to locate my cookies folder to see the cookies placed on my laptop from my various online activities.

Upon opening this text file, the following information shows:

__cfduidd106d778fefe56d1eb82963cbe18b701a1458326992smartinsights.com/9216183317504030580760412725404830507334*

Apparently on the 18th of March, I visited Smart Insights website at 2:49 PM.

Here’s another example of visiting Amazon.com:

session-id-time  954242000  amazon.com/ session-id  002-4135256-7625846  amazon.com/ x-main  eKQIfwnxuF7qtmX52x6VWAXh@Ih6Uo5H  amazon.com/ ubid-main  077-9263437-9645324  amazon.com/

Those emails you receive about a dishwasher for competitor companies after looking at Home Depot are not a coincidence.

So how has the use of cookies evolved for businesses? They are now able to have a more accurate track of how many visitors view their pages by assigning unique identifiers to each persons browser. Their form of customization is by creating store user preferences for the individual visiting set by the user themselves. This is where you, the consumer interact with the site and customize it according to your preferences. For example visit msn.com and you can enter your zip code or others for customized weather information. Page layout can be changed in addition to various color schemes and/or themes. You are letting the site know what you want to see each time you visit. In other words, you now control the marketing by deciding who can store cookies and how the page should look. The power is now with the consumer in how marketing should appear to you. We have emerged from being marketed to – to controlling the marketing environment.

Special recognition to B.C. who wanted me to write about this.

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5 thoughts on “The Cookie War

  1. That cartoon at the end was quite hilarious but effective in making a point. I agree with a previous comment made in which one responder said that “Internet tracking isn’t quite sophisticated enough to tell the difference between a one-time purchase” and that of a person who truly is interested. I find that to be annoying as well, that as soon as I purchase a gift, I start receiving all these ads and emails on items I do not need or care about.

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  2. This is definitely an interesting topic, there are pros and cons to cookies. On one hand you are able to be reminded what you have looked at and could get a good deal. On the down side they are tracking your every click and some people might feel like big brother is keeping an eye on them.

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  3. So I am the weird one, that screws up all the data because I clear my cache and cookies from all my devices at least once per week. I also block cookies from as many sites as possible (though there are many sites that are coded to not work without cookies, like most e-commerce sites). There are two types of cookies, session cookies and persistent cookies. While I know that cookies are not viruses, I am just not a huge fan of the thought of companies following my every mouse click, and bidding on my interests so they can target ads specifically to me. However, even through clearing my cookies, I still am amazed with how often the banner ads on Google and Facebook are extremely relevant to my purchase and search history.

    I am interested to see how evolving legislation is going to impact a company’s ability to collect cookie based data on consumers. In Europe in 2011 a law was passed that only allowed cookies to be collected when user consent was given, and since then the laws and recently new FCC guidelines in the United States focused on cookies and privacy concerns.

    All about computer cookies. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.allaboutcookies.org/

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  4. The UK has taken an interesting approach and now requires websites to notify visitors of tracking methods/cookies(http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/05/from-now-on-britains-cookie-law-prohibits-tracking-without-consent/). This puts even more consent in consumers’ hands by making them aware that the organization/company is tracking them.

    I personally will use “incognito” browsing when I am searching for something that I don’t want to receive ads for – such as a baby gift. I don’t have kids but Internet tracking isn’t quite sophisticated enough to tell the difference between a one-time purchase and overall interest in a category. Maybe someday! 🙂

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