Cookie Monstrosity

What sort of an internet user are you?  How much do you trust the web?  Broadly speaking, I think there are those that think the web is a benign catalogue of useful information and those that are more paranoid and wouldn’t dream of parting with credit card details let alone more personal information about habits, hobbies, salary and such like.

But how much information do you think a site is taking from you while you innocently browse your favourite sites?

The answer is probably a lot more than you thought.  Did you notice that there seemed to be a lot of running-related ads appearing even when you were browsing non-running websites?  That’s because people selling stuff are getting cleverer at serving up content and advertising that is more likely to be relevant to you.  They call this behavioural targeting – it’s the digital equivalent of rummaging through your bins.  I visited one site for Cala Homes a while back and have never seen so many Cala Homes ads appearing in almost every subsequent site I visited.

So it’s not surprising that the EU has sat up and thought “Oi oi, sounds like a chance to spend some time drafting a new privacy directive – that could keep us all in a job for a while” and that’s exactly what’s happening.

As a consumer, you have a right to know if a site has clocked you, dropped a cookie into your browser and then chosen to deliver “Targeted” ads for that brand for the next fortnight in the name of improving your browsing experience.  The EU Privacy Directive  or “Cookie Law” is in fact not yet law but it will be very soon and it aims to protect us consumers from such tactics by enforcing site owners to offer us all an opt out from being tracked in this way.

According to recent surveys, as many as 31% of regular browsing public have no idea what a cookie is.  And why should they.  And only 18% of marketers and brand owners feel that enforcing an opt-out mechanism would be beneficial.  Nearly everyone thinks it’s unenforceable.

But the web is entering an interesting phase; we have embraced a new “Social” phase in how we communicate with each other and businesses want to engage with us personally too.  We expect a personalised browsing experience yet we want it safe, policed and not over-intrusive.  It’s going to be fun to see how all this shakes out because right now it’s none of those things.

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