Most Cookies Aren’t Worth Saving

On May 25, the European Union enacted a law to regulate cookies, the Internet kind, not the baked good. In the United States, we long have looked to Europe for trends in what’s next for our country. Consider democracy, vampires, royal families, glam rock, organized crime, designer purses, Gothic architecture at Yale and Tudor architecture in Texas. This is another trend that’s coming to our shores.

The restriction of cookies will cause howls from all corners of the Internet advertising industry. We’ll hear about how without cookies Internet publishing is unsustainable, pay walls will go up in every corner of the Web, and consumers will find themselves in a content wasteland with untargeted pop-up ads blighting the landscape. It doesn’t have to be like this.

Here’s what I would keep. I’d retain first-party cookies. These first-party cookies are issued by the website you are visiting and make your time on that site better. You won’t have to log in when you re-visit the site. You’ll be able to buy stuff without having to fill out all of your information again. You’ll have a better online experience. Everyone wins.

On the other hand, I’d consider getting rid of non-consumer-authorized third-party cookies. This kind of cookie is a small script placed on your hard drive by an entity other than the site you are visiting. By the way, this is the kind of cookie that consumers object to most. It’s a cookie that is deleted and expires a lot of the time (some say up to 30 percent), so it is not entirely useful for both targeting and tracking. And it’s a cookie that was developed a long time ago when folks never imagined its use or misuse, depending on how you look at it. In fact, Lou Montulli developed cookies in 1994 while he was working at Netscape. And it’s been a very long time since this piece of the ecosystem has been refreshed.

If no third-party cookies, what’s next? We at BlueCava believe in a technology we are promoting that’s called device fingerprinting. Our methodology allows us to identify uniquely any of the 10 billion Internet connected devices on the planet. BlueCava’s device ID token does not live on the machine, but instead offsite on our servers. And unlike third-party cookies, device fingerprinting is persistent. What’s more, it can enable targeting and tracking at the device level. We hope that you will think of device ID as newer, fresher variety of cookie. One we think will last.

The move to consumer control over media, including advertising, is continuing. The industry has too often stood in the way of this when it comes to cookies. The new EU standard will require companies to gain “explicit consent” (whatever that means) from Web users who are being tracked by cookies. There are many outstanding issues that pop up from this legislation, including how to gain consent from consumers and how to make this consent persistent.

If the past is a prelude to the future, some form of cookie legislation, like that just enacted in the EU, will arrive here soon. It will have a distinctly American flavor to it, but it’s coming.

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