Beware of the Cookie Monster!

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Have you ever wondered how that pair of shoes you were looking at buying online, is now following you on your screen everywhere?  Alternatively, have you ever noticed that your favourite online retailers have started suggesting future purchases for you? Welcome to the world of retargeting and behaviourial advertising!

So what exactly is a cookie?  Cookies are small pieces of code which are placed on your computer by websites that you visit.  Cookies were invented to make websites work faster and more efficiently (for example, cookies remember what items you have placed in your shopping basket before you pay for the items).Beware of online cookies!

They also provide information to the website owner about you and your online behaviour!  Perhaps that’s why they’re called cookies… they’re a little treat for the website owner.  A case of naughty but nice perhaps!  This begs the question though, is the website owner enjoying a tasty morsel at your expense?

Just like real-life Cookies, most Cookies have a shelf-life.  Most reach their expiry date after the browser session is closed and are simply discarded.  Other cookies track people’s activity online over a longer period and can even store personal information about you.

The EU Cookie Law, an e-Privacy Directive that came into action in May last year, means consumers have the right to choose to have their web browsing behaviour tracked. They must also be told how to opt out of tracking and give consent if they wish to have cookies, which can track the whole course of their web usage.

However, not everyone is playing ball. Since the beginning of 2013, the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office has written to 235 organisations about compliance with the cookie rules. The ICO can also name and shame companies that do not comply and damage their reputation.

And the concerns do not end there.  Banner adverts can even be hijacked by external advertisers, with data being “mined” without the user’s authorisation.  Browser speed can also suffer.  With each cookie collected, the consumer unwittingly leaves each website with a slower performance speed as a result of all the cookies weighing down their PC or tablet.

So the next time you are thinking about banner advertising or any other form of retargeted ads, make sure you understand the implications. For advice on this or any other area of online marketing, please give us a call on 03330 124 007.


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