Cookie Monster sounded better than the title “What will they think of next.

Well THEY have thought of a way to track and sell information about you using cookies placed on your computer while shopping.  I have been a privacy hawk when it comes to cookies for a while (more on that below).  As such I was surprised that a  NYTimes article was the one to inform me about a newish Internet marketing technique that uses behavioral targeting and cookies across multiple sites.   Read the article quick or you may have to register for their website to read it.   Basically there are companies (the two biggest are eXelate and BlueKai) that work with online merchants to place tracking cookies on your computer and mate them with information about your interests.

Those interests may be garnered from products you add to a shopping cart, to search terms on those websites, and pages/products you read about on the websites.  These Cookie Monsters then essentially sell the cookies with targeted information to buyers.  I suppose there is an argument that “you are going to get ads anyways so and might rather look at targeted ads rather than random ones”.  But what would stop a online store from pairing these “anonymous preferences” with your personal information they get from their shopping cart?  I suppose the Cookie Monster’s terms of service say they can’t do that, but I am sure it will happen.  After all, anti-spam companies are now spam-promoting their anti-spam services.

So, there you go – yet another thing to worry about.

If you are paranoid about cookies (like me – go ahead make fun of me in comments)…  I use Mozilla Firefox and have privacy preferences set up to block all cookies.   For sites that I trust that require cookies, I add that domain name as an accepted cookie.  Firefox also lets me add these exceptions with a condition that deletes the cookie at the end of the browsing session.  Therefore when I went to BlueKai’s preferences page to see what info they have about me I got a pleasant message “We currently do not have anonymous information of your online preferences.”

While we are on the subject…  Google recently announced behavioral targetting although they call it “interest-based” advertising.   When I read Google’s disclosure it just doesn’t seem as intrusive and open to improper capture of preferences with personal data as these other solutions.  Just in case I’m drinking the Google Kool-Aid, here are a couple other blogger takes…

– Eric Snyder