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Cookies Anyone?

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There is one particular issue that relates specifically to the web and your surfing, buying and e-mailing habits. You should know by now that every site you visit can place a “cookie” on your hardrive which will record a few crumbs of information about you.

This is harmless enough at first glance when all they seem to care about is the time, date, length of stay and pages you visited at their site. But when you know that advertisers that serve ads from the sites you visit can also track your visit, link it to other stored data about you gathered at other sites and finally to any other information they have stored about you, how do you feel?

This means that the harmless little “session number” or “state data” gathered about you from every site you’ve ever visited, every product you’ve ever purchased online and every banner you’ve ever clicked on is stored in the database of the ad server and distributed to it’s clients!

DoubleClicks Cookie Dismatling Information

Information provided by the largest cookie bakery on the web, DoubleClick.

It is possible to set your browser to the “Do Not Accept Any Cookies” option. I recommend you try it once, if only for the enlightenment about how many sources are collecting information about you. Some web pages will send as many as a dozen requests for cookies and many web sites tell you flatly that in order to use their online service “cookies must be enabled on your browser” to use the site.

It gets tiring and frustrating clicking the “OK” button in the warning box that appears each time your browser detects a request to set a cookie on your hard drive, if you’ve checked the “notify me” option in preferences.

If you want to get a clearer picture of how cookies can be used to invade your privacy, I recommend an amazing demonstration of how you can be followed around the web without your knowledge. Privacy.net has set up a demo at:

http://www.privacy.net/track/

You’ll see how providing information in bits and pieces to multiple web sites creates a cumulative database on your travels, habits and preferences online. Prepare to be mildly miffed or fully outraged, depending on your level of concern with invasion of privacy.

It is becoming increasingly complex to keep your private information to yourself. The biggest advertisers online have created a method which involves cookies which stop new cookies. You must get yourself a set of “No Cookies For Me” cookies from a group set up by this online advertising brain trust. Now ya gotta have a new cookie to avoid getting any more cookies. No really, I couldn’t eat another bite, please! If you’d like to follow this recipe for avoiding advertiser spying on your surfing habits, visit the Network Advertising Initiative web site and go to the OPT OUT page, which gives you the option to tick boxes to opt out of cookies served by the largest six online ad servers,

DoubleClick
Engage
24/7 Media
Matchlogic
Avenue A
L90 Inc.

OK, now you’re outta there, right? No, not necessarily. You’ve opted out but you use your wifes’ computer or you use a different browser to visit sites that serve the cookies you don’t want, so you have to visit the OPT OUT page again and check off those boxes for every computer and every browser you use. This could get a bit tedious! Most surfers don’t know that the browser launched by their service provider might be different from the built-in browser launched by their operating system on start-up by the system. The ISP provided browser is yet another version. Which one are you using now and on which computer and did you visit the OPT OUT page with this one?

Fortunately, the NAI has set up a way for you to tell by going to the verification page, which looks for those opt-out cookies and verifies that you have them for each of the participating ad networks. If you don’t, you can go back to the OPT OUT page and get new OPT OUT cookies. If that still doesn’t work, you can go complain to someone set up to police the activity of these cookie monsters. Guess who arranged for this compliance service? Those same advertisers. HMMMM. Well it’s better than nothing. Just visit the Arthur Anderson site called AndersonCompliance.

Now you’ve filed a complaint and you can feel all better about it right? Well only if they get a volume of complaints that suggests a “significant” problem has occurred based on the number of complaints filed, then they’ll conduct an investigation. Man that’s a relief! I wonder if those ad networks will keep paying these guys to tell them when they’ve gotten a significant number of complaints? I wonder how much they pay for this service and who monitors the people they are paying to tell them what they’d like to hear? They’d probably stop paying me if I played this role, because I’d be telling them every time a single complaint was lodged.

Mike Banks Valentine operates SEOptimism, Offering SEO training of
in-house content managers http://seoptimism.com/SEO_Staff_Training.htm
as well as the Small Business Ecommerce Tutorial at
http://WebSite101.com and blogs about SEO at http://RealitySEO.com
where this article appears with live links to SMO stories, buttons, blog posts and examples.

Cookies Anyone?
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