We love to leave cookies out for Santa. No matter what kind, flavor or how many… he loves cookies. Same goes for big-bad companies as you browse the web to visit and share websites you already visit. Unfortunately, if you shopped online this holiday season, you might have some cookies of your own to deal with. This information comes from founder and CEO Vijay Pullur, from SocialTwist and helps explain how the cookies crumble. I thought it was humorous and a good find to land in my inbox today.
And just like the real cookies, internet cookies come in various flavors. Here’s a guide to some of the different internet cookies tracking consumers online and the associated privacy risks:
- Session cookies: These cookies end up on the ‘nice’ list for users and are almost mandatory to remember if you’re logged in so the site you’re on won’t have to bug you for your username and password on every screen. Privacy risk for end users: None
- Site cookies: Remember when you found the perfect gift, threw it in the shopping cart, but then x-ed out of the screen because the recipient (or your boss) walked in the room? These cookies do; they’re necessary to identify returning users and provide customization on the site for better use experience. So once the coast was clear, these little helpers allowed you to return to the site with your shopping cart intact. Privacy risk for end users: Little
- Analytics cookies: Served by third parties to provide analytics to the site owner, sites typically use these to monetize ads for reporting stats to advertisers so they can deliver better and possibly more targeted ads. Privacy risk for end users: Moderate
What consumers might not know about behavior tracking cookies…
- Behavior tracking cookies track users’ activity across multiple sites, building a user “profile” that includes interests, buying habits, location, gender, age, politics, religion, previous purchases, buying patterns, who you are on social networks, who you voted for, your personally-identifiable-information and much, much moire. In essence, these cookies are heart-cloggers when it comes to information.
- It is not necessary to use the functionality these third-party behavioral cookies provide – it’s like going to the police and telling them every civil infraction you’ve done. It’s just not needed.
- Companies that collect behavioral information can collate and build up user profiles via online information exchanges, or by trading user information with other websites to build a robust user profile.
- Companies that attach behavioral cookies often offer a free product, scrape users’ behavioral data and then sell that to advertisers, creating a massive privacy risk for end users.
- Behavioral cookies track users for long periods of time, usually years, unlike other types of cookies that are more temporary.
- Clearing browser cookies only partially eliminates user risk. Companies use technologies like Flash cookies and other means, including saved information through previous activities, so that they can reconstruct the user map.
Want to read more thoughts about privacy and behavioral-tracking cookies? Here you go.
[Image credit: themeparkmom]