Cookie monsters

I feared this: When AOL fucked up — is there any other word for it? — and released what turned out to be personally identifiable information with its data base of search results, I was afraid that the next thing we’d see would be a story once again raising the spectre of privacy with ad cookies. Here’s one. I’m a strong defender of ad cookies because without them and the targeting and efficiency they enable, advertisers would advertise less or pay less or both on the internet, pulling the rug and big out money out from under our beloved new world. And we’d all be getting crappier ads with dancing monkeys. Cookies are good. Search is good. But sometimes, an idiot does something stupid that ruins a good thing. AOL is just such an idiot.

: Fred Wilson’s take here.

Yes companies need to have privacy policies. And yes they need to adhere to them. And yes, they shouldn’t be making public people’s search queries. And yes, consumers should be able to easily opt out of these targeting approaches.
But cookies and stored search queries are good things. They make it possible for web services to deliver relevancy in advertising, something no other media has been able to deliver efficiently and reliably.

The reality is that these targeting approaches, whether they be searched based, behavioral, contextual, or whatever is next, are giving us more relevant ads.

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  • Len Ellis

    Once again, a security breach is being confused with a privacy problem. Data security and informational privacy are two different matters and until these are clearly differentiated, reporters will continue to use the former to raise the specter of the latter. So, the critique of Hansell is on point.

    At the same time, the rational benefit of cookies, relevance, is not likely to overcome the emotional reaction to surveillance. Champion cookies and stored search data all you want, but this won’t change until consumers embrace transparency (publicity) and the opportunity to “advertise themselves” to marketers.

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