Why You Want "Killer" Tracking Cookies on Your Computer

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    The Wall Street Journal, in the past year, has released dozens of articles about tracking cookies being secretly placed on your computer when you visit popular websites. One recent article conjures the term "Supercookies" as a lethal injection of privacy violation (see Latest in Web Tracking: Stealthy Supercookies).  As soon as this article is posted the conspiracy theorists and big brother gang start jumping in and voicing their disgust. Here's an example:

    "The moment you are ONLINE, it is as good as imagining that you are swimming in the cool blue sea (very enticing) infested with killer sharks (cookies)."

    The WSJ seems to be scraping for something of substance and when they find a small granule they come out with horns blaring and the town crier using a megaphone. This amazes me because the WSJ is a publication site that relies on ad dollars just like the websites they claim are spies. Anybody that uses Bing, Yahoo, or Google ad networks allows this to happen and the WSJ is one of them. But in the majority of cases, this is not a bad thing and can be beneficial to website visitors.

    How Cookies Work

    I believe a quick explanation is in order for how cookies actually work. Every time you visit a website a cookie is placed on your computer. The only way one is not placed on your computer is if the owner of the website is a very poor marketer (I'll elaborate in a bit). 

    Here's a more intelligent comment from the article above:

    "Cookies are not about advertising per se but about "targeted advertising". Let them advertise but without a window into my private life. That's how the world worked until recently and I failed to notice any lack of advertisers back then."

    It is about targeted advertising and this benefits everyone who uses any site with advertising. How many times have you watched a show on TV and you see an advertisement for the Little Rascal scooter, some medical alert device, or some other commercial that doesn't apply to you. That is mass advertising. Cable companies claim it is targeted but it is targeted only by region and survey demographics. It is not a true and accurate target audience.

    Cookies, on the other hand, allow advertising companies to track user preferences so they can deliver the most relevant advertisements that match up with website visitors' interests and lifestyles. If you look at an article or website about the new Toyota Sienna mini-van you may see ads from dealers near you or ads for competing brands you may also be interested in. Buying a mini-van says a few things about you though. You probably have a family and are interested in security.

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    About the Author

    Matt Zentz

    Matt Zentz launched Marketpath from a small Broad Ripple bungalow in February 2001 with a focus on custom web application development. He built the first, basic version of a hosted CMS called Webtools and shortly afterward expanded his team and created the first version of Marketpath CMS.

    Matt has worked for a national consulting firm, taught computer programming to high school juniors and seniors , and led the information technology arm of the auxiliary business units at Indiana University.

    Matt graduated from Indiana University in 1999 with a B.S. in Computer Science and has built custom web applications since 1995. Matt is husband to an amazing & supportive wife, has three beautiful children, supreme master to Archimedes (Archie) the dog, and mostly tolerant victim of 2 flying rats (cockateils).

    He coaches various kid sports, enjoys furniture and home renovation projects, and plays guitar and piano. Matt is also active with his church as a parishioner, technical advisor and board member on the festival committee.

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