Tracking: How that trail of cookie crumbs can leave behind more than you thought

You may or may not have heard of cookies, and before we go any farther lets get everyone on the same page, we are talking computer cookies.

Cookies are teeny files that are deposited on your hard drive while you surf the Internet. A cookie definition is a text only string that gets entered into the memory of your browser. A cookie is sometimes referred to as an HTTP cookie, web cookie, or browser cookie. However, all cookies aren’t the same, in general they seem to be pretty harmless. They tend to expire quickly and actually make websites easier to use.

For example, you know those logins that remember you as you start typing in your information – that’s the cookies. Maybe creepy, but most just pass it off for the convenience factor.

That doesn’t seem too bad, a couple of sites you frequent often remembering your information, right? No, it gets personal and creepy when you throw in the word tracking.

Tracking has been defined by the Center for Democracy and Technology as “the collection and correlation of data about the Internet activities of a particular user, computer or device over time and across non-commonly branded Web sites, for any purpose other than fraud prevention or compliance with law enforcement requests.”

Long term tracking cookies, aren’t your run of the mill cookies. These cookies can actually collect a lot of information about what web sites you visit, and what you look at and do on those web pages also.

Your web browsing habits can be tracked and profiled, which can ultimately allow companies to make predictions on your “offline” purchasing habits.

So what is the problem with these “long term tracking cookies”? Companies such as advertisers or web analytic groups, may know more about you than you think they should. Not only do they have information about you, they can sell this information too.

However, there is good news: you can easily delete your cookie from your browser as often as you like. But deleting your cookie file entirely will make you start from scratch with every website you visit – there goes your convenience factor.

To protect yourself you can also opt-out of having your information used by third-party ad servers.  This site also allows you to see what and how many third parties companies are tracking you, check it out by visiting: http://www.networkadvertising.org/managing/opt_out.asp or more recently request to be on the “Do Not Track” list. Do Not Track allows users to hide their browsing activity from advertisers.

And don’t think you are not interesting enough to be tracked, if you are on Facebook then this might be of interest to you. Facebook is once again being sued for tracking their users even after they have signed off of Facebook. This isn’t the first time Facebook has been accused of using cookies to track users after they have logged out of their account. Facebook has said they don’t track users across the Web and its cookies are used to personalize content. And for the tracking cookies, after you log out, it’s for your safety and protection. I’m not so sure about that….

With that being said, ourselves as the user need to be aware of how, where, and why our information is being used. It is definitely something to think about, whether your browsing activity is allowing companies and the government to manipulate us, the consumers, too much?  Lucky for us their are multiple privacy and advocate groups and that are out there trying to protect our privacy and push companies to be more transparent about the data they collect.


Clients and Cookies

So I’m no longer going to be working with AutoTrader – I’m not really sure why but I’m ready to get going with a new client. I have been brainstorming some companies (not all Atlanta based) and would love everyone’s feedback and ideas. The ones in bold are companies I think might work.

Atlanta Healthcare Companies

1. WebMD – already taken

2. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta– hospital that specializes in children

  • Concussions: they have Head Start or whatever their program is- could use Facebook to find young people that “activities” include sports and push educational info for them
  • Possible Constituent: Children that play sports
  • Goal: decrease concussion related injuries/create more awareness about concussions

3. American Cancer Society – helping you stay well. take steps in preventing cancer and treating it in its most early stage, helping people along the way with cancer, funding/conducting research to find cures, working to pass legislative to fight against cancer

  • Problem: most people that have cancer or know someone with cancer probably             are aware of American Cancer Society
  • Possible Consistent: people that do not have cancer
  • Goal: get more people active in the fight against cancer

4. Gentiva Health Services- America’s home health service/hospice service. Provide service each year to 350,000 patients for more than 475 community locations nationwide

  • Possible Consistuents: baby boomer that might not know where to find proper services for their parents
  • Goals: find better healthcare for people over 65.
  • Idea: could use facebook (which has a large number of baby boomers people now) to push Gentiva through keywords like – mom fell again, had to take mom to the doctor again, please pray for mom her diabetes is getting worse, etc. Keywords that mention a medical condition, medication, therapy, hospitalization,injury

5. Merial- animal health company. Merial is a world-leading, innovation-driven animal health company, providing a comprehensive range of products to enhance the health, well-being and performance of a wide range of animals. Merial employs approximately 5,600 people and operates in more than 150 countries worldwide. Its 2010 sales were more than $2.6 billion. Merial is the animal health division of sanofi-aventis.

  • No idea what I could do with this but everyone loves animals and their pets.. so maybe someone could help with this
  • They own Frontline and pharmaceticual companies love to advertise so maybe we could push one of their products

6. Center for Tobacco Products (FDA) – helping people be tobacco free, e-cigs, cig health warnings

Others:

-Emory, NorthPoint, Wellstar, Piedmont

The Carter Center

-United Way

-Kaiser Permanente

 

COOKIES:

Besides brainstorming possible clients I think I was suppose to talk about cookies for my blog. I wasn’t sure if we agreed to just bring cookies to class but I’ll do both either way.

A cookie is a text only string that gets entered into the memory of your browser. A cookie is sometimes referred to as an HTTP cookie, web cookie, or browser cookie. There are multiple reasons why a site might wish to use cookies. The reasoning ranges from personalized information (like on My Yahoo), sales/services (eBay, Amazon) to simple demographic information (DoubleClick).

You know those logins that already remember you – that’s the cookies.

However, if you are creeped out by this or just plain paranoid then you can easily delete your cookie from your browser as often as you like. But deleting your cookie file entirely will make you start from scratch with every website you visit – there goes your convenience factor.

If you are creeped out by cookies you really shouldn’t be, well except for the spread of your personal information. A cookie is a simple piece of text. It is not a program or a plug-in, so it can’t be used as a virus, and it cannot access your hard drive.

We can discuss more of this in class over cookies.