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Cookies – Good to eat, nice to track with

Jun
12

Privacy advocates these days are bringing out their pickets and baying for the blood of tech companies employing the use of cookies to track and better target audiences so that marketers can get a better ROI against their advertising spends.

Many people see the phrase tracking cookies, and immediately put up this brick wall and instantly shut down their laptops with a 10-inch stick for fear that physical contact will somehow enable that cookie to track them into real life.

A lot of people don’t even know what is being tracked before jumping on the bandwagon and going on about privacy.

LOOK. Whatever cookies track, we don’t know WHO you are. All we know is that browser A has recently been on to a lot of travel sites, accesses techcrunch, mashable and slashfilm daily, so we are going to make assumptions that the person using browser A is a techie who loves movies and may be contemplating some travel. That’s all.

Tracking the Trackers:

You may have seen a Ted Talk by Gary Kovacs about this cookie technology, and in the video he paints a picture of how companies like these are stalking him and his family, akin to a bunch of predators circling his child as she goes to school.

Come on.

I think he should know better, coming from a tech background himself.

No personally identifiable data is being collected.

He also spoke of a software to track the trackers called collusion. I installed it and surfed around for a day, collecting data on my trackers, and what I found didn’t alarm me.

In fact, a lot of these so-called “trackers” are essential web tools to enable us be better connected. So let’s see what these trackers really are.

Trackers

So I left collusion on, and went about my daily business. When I logged off at the end of the day, this was what I saw:

Collusion after a day

Whoa

Looks intimidating. Let’s take a look when we filter into Techcrunch, one of the more popular tech sites that people go to.

collusion on techcrunch

What!

What! That’s a lot of trackers tracking my visit to techcrunch! But when you take a closer look at each, and understand their usage, its not all that scary.

Facebook, Linkedin, Google and Twitter are on there because some scripts would have to be in place so you can tweet, like and +1 each article that you share with your friends.

Google Analytics is on there so techcrunch can see where their visitors are coming from.

WordPress is there cos duh! that’s the blogging platform they are using.

Adtechus is an adserver that serves you the ads you see on the site.

All these different sites have codes on Techcrunch because they are required to perform a certain task.

Some of them are “tracking” you only for the reason that you can share these articles when you want to, at the click of a button, instead of copying and pasting the link and then emailing them to your list of friends, like we used to do.

So please, don’t fan the flames of paranoia any further than its already gone.

Pro (advertising) Choice

Yesterday, Frédéric Filloux of The Guardian wrote an article on behaviorial advertising via tracking of audience, and he had this to say:

Your online behavior – queries you send, ads you click on – draws your marketing profile, enabling brands to deluge you with “targeted” ads. A shoe freak will be swamped by shoemakers ads, someone who intends to buy a car will be targeted by automakers and dealers.

I say what’s wrong with showing you car ads if you ARE indeed in the consideration phase of purchasing a car?

A webpage is going to have a certain number of ads no matter where you surf. Would you rather they show you an ad of a car you may or may not like, or they show you an ad for a sanitary pad  brand when you are a man?

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