Seth Godin put out one of his characteristically pithy blog posts today, tackling the idea of advertisers placing cookies on web surfer’s cache directories:
As discussed before, there are networks of companies planting cookies on your machine and tracking behavior across websites. That means you’ll see an ad on one site based on what you did on another.
You can opt out for free. Here’s the not very well promoted link.
You’ll see a list of which members of the NAI are already placing a cookie on your machine and you can get rid or some or all of them.
To be really clear: I don’t mind the cookie sniffing. I don’t mind getting better ads. I don’t mind the sites making money.
I mind the sneaking around part.
This is a topic I trot out from time to time, mostly because the objections to being advertised to come from the most surprising of places. This is something I’d imagine Seth would have a better handle on than he seems to.
Given that this type of advertising relies on a very esoteric method of behavioral tracking, even for those that are particularly web savvy, I don’t know exactly how “up front” the NAI could be about this “sneaking around” business.
Should pages that contain ads from networks that utilize this method of cookie sniffing interrupt the web surfing experience to warn surfers that they’re being observed so that advertisements can be better tracked? Perhaps these surfers should have their email addresses all sniffed out as well, and be given notification that they can opt out if they like?
Perhaps it would be even less creepy if personally identifiable data was put together so that they could be given Twitter direct messages or Facebook / MySpace messages to opt out of this sort of tracking.
Or here’s an idea – there should be a surgeon general’s warning that sits in the bottom right corner of every display ad on the web: “This ad is targeted using cookies, which have been known to cause birth defects in pregnant fathers. If you’re paranoid about this, click here to receive ads you’ll care less about but won’t know a thing about you.”