logo The Cookie Controversy - Lori Eichelberger M.L.I.S


Purpose of Cookies

Internet Privacy

Privacy Issues

Anti-Cookie Software

The Future of Cookies


Works Cited

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   Purpose of Cookies

The Original Concept

As originally designed, cookies were to be of benefit to the user. Online organizations like the New York Times which require user ID and passwords could store this information in the form of a cookie. This way, repeat visitors to a site could avoid having to fill out form information on each visit. Likewise, some online search engines such as Infoseek use cookies to "remember" users and offer them customized news and services based on their prior use. (Fogle) So as originally designed, cookies were intended to be a time-saving device for computer users. For example instead of having to send a credit card number over the Internet multiple times, an online vendor could read the user's cookie and match it to a stored profile which would contain that information. Or, or a more general note, cookies which traced user activity on websites could also enable the web designers to determine which of their pages were the most successful and plan their updates accordingly. (Dyrli, 20)

Cookies and Advertising

With the increasing commercial applications of the Internet, it was probably inevitable that cookies would quickly be utilized for advertising purposes. Since cookies can be matched to the profile of a user's interests and browsing habits, they are a natural tool for the "targeting" of advertisements to individual users. Marketing consultants such as DoubleClick Inc. and MatchLogic quickly began to utilize cookies to increase the efficiency of the placing of advertisements on websites (Williamson). Their intent is to target advertisements such as changing banner ads to users whose profiles match those of likely consumers of the advertised products. For example, DoubleClick was retained by the 3M Corporation to help target Internet banner advertising for an expensive multi-media projector to those users who would be most likely to purchase it. DoubleClick made use of the information cookies provided about user browsing habits to match the banners with users who had a history of selecting high-technology sites (Moukheiber, 342). DoubleClick also indicates that another reason for using cookies is to prevent users from "being bombarded with the same ad over and over again" (DoubleClick on Privacy) by keeping track of how many times a user has been shown a banner at any website on which DoubleClick customers advertise. In addition, consecutive banner advertising can be shown to a user as they visit successive DoubleClick customer sites. Infoseek also matches advertising to user interests stored in their cookie: "a person who performs repeated searches on baseball topics may be shown an ad for the Sportsline Website" (Vonder Haar).


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