In the last few months there has been a lot of fuss around ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cookies in Germany: consumer advocates are alarmed, the advertising industry is warning of its demise, numerous ad hoc surveys have tried to get to the bottom of public perception (of course with ambiguous results…). Consumers are highly frustrated – the new EU privacy policies are generating more questions than answers.
This of course implies that all websites which a user visits can potentially be tracked, evaluated and personalised. This is causing concern among internet users who want to be able to opt out. There are also significant legal considerations for how this data is used in Europe. Data which is captured by cookies can only include certain pieces of personal information. Also, the data has to be made anonymous and it is not allowed to be associated with real names or complete IP addresses.
Returning to the initial question: What is the cookie debate all about? It’s about two extremes: total liberalisation versus total restriction. There is a lively and fruitful debate between these two poles.
What is difficult to understand is why there is such a fuss at all. In the ‘offline’ retail world, our behaviour has been observed and tracked for some time with methods such as store cards and vouchers. What, really, is the big problem in the use of these methods online?