No Cookie = No Advertising!

Wed 7 July 2010 00:07, Lorenzo Martopawiro

No Cookie = No Advertising!

One of the latest happenings in the online hemisphere which is still causing lots of controversy is the recent change in the directive of the European Union’s Privacy & Telecommunications Law. This new European Law actually says that the placement of cookies on the user’s computer can only be executed once the user has given his/her explicit consent. The party involved in the placement of the cookies should also provide the user with comprehensive information prior to the storage of the cookie.

Cookies are of great importance to web publishers and online advertisers. Its ability to gather useful visitor information opens up great opportunities for advertisers and visitors. Unfortunately, a great amount of people still see a deep dark shadow above our befriended cookies.

It is not uncommon that many people have a certain negative perception of cookies. The uninformed believe that cookies are spies, sitting there on their computer, waiting for the next moment to pop-up a sneakily hidden advertisement. I’m in no doubt that some people also believe that a cookie can be harmful to their computer. It is actually the nescience about the functionality of cookies that is causing these negative perceptions.

The new cookie law is breaking all opportunities that provide the visitor with a more improved web experience. Asking the user’s consent will become a burden if a user needs to click “OK” on every website he/she visits which is using cookies. This will definitely become a threat to advertisers and publishers and particular those who focus on behavior-based advertising. Imagine that all third party tracking tools such as Google Analytics would have to ask each and every visitor to store and read cookies on their computer.

At the A4UExpo of April this year, Kimon Zorbas – VP of Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) Europe – provided a couple of tips on what could be done to defy the enforcement of this law:

• Fix our privacy statement

• Propagate the ‘beauty of cookies’

• Educate those who are uninformed

• Advocate the use of cookies by reaching out to politicians

According to Kimon, advocacy is an essential part. There should be a focus on advocating the benefits and opportunities of cookies by explaining how advertising finances the internet and how the opt-in regime of asking user’s consent to store cookies will have a great negative impact on this. To propagate the beauty and usefulness of cookies, Kimon presented a fantastic video which visually explains the use of cookies in a clear and concise way.

So is there any work-around for this matter? Different interpretation of the law would be a possibility. Most of today’s web browsers already have automatic cookie storage enabled. One could say that because of this the user has already given their consent as they are aware that cookies are unblocked.

What tracking techniques other than cookies are there that we could implement? Although cookie tracking seems like the most effective tracking method, there are other ways of tracking user data. One of the methods would be ‘session tracking’. In this tracking method a new session is opened in the visitor’s browser upon entrance of the website. During this session, the visitor’s actions can be recorded. Perhaps another better method for tracking is by using Fingerprint Tracking. Fingerprint Tracking matches the IP-address along with the browser settings of the user.

The new directive is planned to be enforced in 2011. It seems inevitable that the implementation of such a directive will meet resistance from various opponents. Objection already exists from different trade bodies such as The European Publishers Council and IAB. It is quite evident that regulations such as these create barriers in online advertising. Nevertheless, those who rely on cookies to track visitor behavior in Europe should start thinking about other tracking techniques.


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