Have you ever searched for a certain product online, left the page, but then found that you continue to get adverts promoting said product whilst browsing other websites? If your answer is yes, then you’ve been the victim of a tracking cookie.
What exactly is a tracking cookie?
A tracking cookie looks at the content that you’re searching online, reads and stores the data and then distributes this information to 3rd parties enabling them to promote their products and services directly to you.
What’s the worst case scenario?
Internet security is an ever growing concern for users and services providers. We all want to be sure that when we search online we’re not exposing ourselves. In the past, tracking cookies have been known to collect sensitive data such as credit card numbers or security codes. With the significant rise in E-commerce over the past 10 years, both the government and service providers have been under great pressure to safeguard user details.
Online forums are full of people’s horror stories when it comes to being affected by tracking cookies and trying to delete them, but are they all that bad?
From a marketers perspective, the answer is a big no! They give marketers clear information on what people are searching for online and are able to present offers that appeal directly to the consumer. This practice known as ‘remarketing’ comes at a cost to the marketer, but has become a highly profitable industry over recent years giving companies invaluable intelligence into what potential customers are searching for.
So what’s all the fuss about?
Many people will argue that tracking cookies breach users’ right to privacy, an act vehemently defended by both EU and US law. Here in the UK, the government has recently implemented an act in accordance with EU law aimed at protecting internet users against the dangers of tracking cookies.
The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations
On the 4th May 2011, the UK government made an amendment to the law regarding how online companies and internet service providers handle your personal data. Stricter regulations have now been put in place with the aim of protecting internet users’ personal privacy.
Who does this affect?
If you’re an internet user then this affects you. However the main aim of the regulation is to get Internet service providers and companies to sort their act out when it comes to handling personal data. Internet service providers can now be held accountable for breaches of internet security.
There is now an obligation on the likes of BT, AOL or Microsoft, to notify the Commissioner of the occurrence of a personal data breach, and where the breach is likely to adversely affect the personal data or privacy of the user/subscriber, further places an obligation on the service provider to notify the breach to the user/subscriber concerned http://www.marketinglaw.co.uk
So is this really going to affect you? In the long-term the answer hopefully is yes. Internet service providers are going to have to take greater responsibility for breaches of security, however we as internet users are unlikely to notice any immediate changes.