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Combating Cookie Paranoia

By deepsand ·
Industry Group Looks To Stem Cookie Deletion

By Antone Gonsalves, InternetWeek
May 6, 2005 (3:49 PM)
URL: [v]http://www.internetweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=162800306[/v]

An industry group hoping to reverse the trend toward cookie deletion by consumers plans to begin work next week on a plan to help improve the image of the technology used to track Web activity.
Safecount.org, a San Francisco group that advocates responsible use of cookies, hopes to form a taskforce that will decide a course of action for the volunteer organization, Cory Treffiletti, co-founder of the group and managing director of Carat Interactive, a San Francisco public relations firm, said.

The taskforce could consider publishing guidelines on the use of digital measurement tools used in online advertising and launching a certification process for companies that agree to follow the guidelines, Treffiliett said.

About 150 people from a wide variety of organizations have expressed interest in joining Safecount.org, which was launched in late April. The nonprofit is targeting as members advertisers, consumer advocacy groups, agencies, market researchers, publishers, advertising technologists and policy analysts.

The idea for Safecount.org followed research that showed an increasing number of consumers were regularly deleting cookies from their web browsers, which greatly diminishes the advertisers and publishers ability to monitor the effectiveness of online advertising or how visitors are using a particular website.

Fully 58 percent of Internet users have deleted cookies, and 39 percent are deleting the tiny text files monthly from their primary computers, according to JupiterResearch, a division of Jupitermedia Corp.

The reason for these Draconian measures is fear, analysts say. Consumers are constantly reminded about the risks on the Internet posed by spyware, phishers and viruses, so deleting cookies makes them feel more secure, even though it's unlikely to make them safer.

"(The trend) sent a message that put everybody (in advertising) on edge," Treffiletti said. "It sent a messge that, if ignored, it could get worst."

Safecount.org hopes to find the middle ground between consumers' drastic actions and companies that could go so far as to take Internet tracking to the level of individuals, as opposed to anonymous tracking.

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