How Yummy are Cookies?

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.

David Beisel

David Beisel is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has been focused on early stage Internet startups his entire career, both as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. As an investor in the digital media space, David was most recently a Vice President at Venrock and previously a Principal at Masthead Venture Partners. Prior to becoming a venture capitalist, David co-founded Sombasa Media, an e-mail marketing company best known for its flagship product BargainDog. Sombasa was successfully acquired by About.com where David served as Vice President of Marketing. David holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an AB in Economics, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Duke University. He also founded and leads the Boston Innovators Group, an organization which holds quarterly entrepreneur events drawing a thousand attendees.

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