The cookie debate refuses to go away. Advertisers don’t want to see the demise of cookies for obvious reasons but privacy advocates on the other hand want a stronger Do Not Track (DNT) policy. The DNT initiative is endorsed by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the privacy setting is already available on Firefox, IE and Safari. Chrome users would need to download and use an official DNT add-on.
Many reputable companies have joined the DNT initiative (including Twitter and Facebook), which means if you enable DNT on any well known browsers i.e. Chrome, Firefox or IE, Twitter and Facebook will stop collecting cookie data from you. There are though some issues with the DNT implementation. It’s up to the ad networks as to whether they action the DNT=1 HTTP header command. I also haven’t seen any visual indication on any browsers as to whether a website supports the DNT feature, so this is a little unclear on how or whether users will use or more importantly understand this feature.
NOTE: Chrome does not block cookies whereas Firefox and IE10 uses the DNT option.
Google yesterday announced that it was considering using a new type of personal identifier (Apple will know more about this – see bootnote below :)) to replace cookies. This they hope will make it easier for users to take greater control over information that advertisers can gather about them. The use of a personal identifier would mean users could adjust one setting in a browser with regards how much data is provided to advertisers. However, there is a down side for consumers. A personal identifier would be Internet-wide and provide a more complete profile picture of users online behaviour, all in one place, whereby cookies cannot combine data from every website you visit.
A serious question right now would be, would the personal identifier be embraced by the ad network industry? My thinking right now, is Google will want to strike a balance between it’s own advertising business (currently worth $120bn in online advertising) and that of user privacy, which I believe will be difficult to implement. That said we all know Google would not want to cut off it’s core business – advertising. So this leads me to conclude that this new approach may well be more intrusive than the current cookie approach used by websites and advertisers.
Safe surfing folks!