For past two weeks since Mossberg’s article in the Wall Street Journal, cookies continue to get slammed in the media while the debate rages. Some are equating them with spyware, as cookies are increasingly receiving a bad reputation that I think is undeserved. With nearly 60% of consumers deleting cookies according to JupiterResearch, I believe that the average consumer is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Unlike spyware, you can’t cast cookies as wholly “bad.” Nor is it completely fair to say that they are “completely harmless” and “good.” The value judgment should rest on the application of the technology, not the technology itself. Adam Marsh astutely and accurately identifies the heart of the issue in his two posts (here and here): it’s really about personally identifiable information (PII) and how it’s used. And different people are going to have different tolerances and preferences for the benefits that cookies bestow and the amount of anonymity that one gives up for those advantages.
For me, I like going to Amazon and receiving personalized recommendations. Or going to Netflix and the site remembering my Queue without me logging in. To be honest, I think it’s helpful for online marketers to show me ads that are more relevant to what I would like. Yes, cookies are good enough for me.
I understand why some people who wish to retain an extreme sense of privacy may want to delete some cookies after giving the notion some thoughtful consideration. But I truly think that for most consumers (including myself), the benefits of cookies vastly outweigh any privacy concerns. Sure, different people have different preferences. But let’s not over-simplify this issue and cast cookies as evil, bad, spyware.