Last week I had lunch with a friend who I met through business. He runs a very good company that helps other companies manage and leverage their data as well as aggregate outside data to help make accurate real-time marketing decisions. I asked him what he thought about serial cookie deleters and how many of them that might be actively covering their own digital tracks. The answer I got was a bit surprising. But I will get that in a moment.
The online advertising world relies on so called ‘Big Data’ and the ability to ‘bucket’ website visitors by their IP address (avowedly not by using their name or personal information) in order to provide relevant ads and offers in front of the website visitor. I myself have argued that a world of irrelevant online ads would be much more aggravating than people realize. After all, I am not at all interested in seeing advertisements for women’s hygiene products or Justin Bieber, yet because both are popular (in their own way) that would be more likely in a world where there was no tracking of any kind simply based on number of possible interested people. At the same time companies are buying access to my IP (and everyone else’s) online behavior activities without my knowledge or any direct financial restitution.
What my friend said that was surprising was that he himself was using a service to block 3rd party cookies to websites he visited. He has no problem with first party cookies being sent back to the site he is visiting so those sites can better understand what visitors view and with what they interact. Neither do I, for that matter. He also referred me to the free service is using – www.Abine.com (like Free Conference Call I wonder how these companies make money since they are ‘hoping’ people will subscribe to additional services which is something I personally rarely do). Abine.com has a neat little two minute demo that takes you through what they are doing when you download the software. There are competitors like www.AllAnonymity.com and others I am sure.
My friend and I discussed the idea that the Obama administration – emboldened by re-election, is on a mission to curtail online tracking with ‘Do Not Track (DNT)’ legislation that appears likely to pass in one form or another despite herculean efforts from certain associations to counter. An article in AdAge in October by Scott Meyer addressed this – http://bit.ly/V9n2yB although it appears one of his primary concerns as a marketer is the idea that a small number of big companies would have total control over the market as well as the impact on the increased cost of data if DNT were to be implemented. Mr. Meyer also offers ‘that there are no credible examples of anyone being harmed by the collection of non-personally indentifiable information, the kind of data that is routinely collected to enable interest-based (behavioral) advertising.’ I don’t necessarily agree that just because there are no ‘credible examples’ of harm that harm is not being done.
In this past Sunday’s New York Times Magazine http://nyti.ms/TExfUA entitled ‘Who do they think you are’, Jeffrey Rosen noted that Microsoft’s IE 10 browser automatically makes DNT the default setting. I thought the most interesting point made in the article was a quote from Eli Pariser, author of The Bubble ‘Personalization can lead you down a road to a kind of informational determinism in which what you’ve clicked on in the past determines what you see next – a Web history you’re doomed to repeat. You can get stuck in a static, ever-narrowing version of yourself – an endless you-loop.’
Does that quote make you feel as uncomfortable as it does me? I believe that if people were given a clear option to block third party cookies when beginning a browsing session, be it on a desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile device, 99% of them would choose that option. It’s what people want. We marketers have to deal with what people want and stop trying to position third party cookie collection as being completely benign.
It doesn’t feel right to me to simply allow the trafficking of people’s third party data.
How do you feel about it?