First of all, the basics: the absolutely best cookies on the face of Earth are Coach’s Oats Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies. Shame on you, Costco, for not carrying it anymore… now that you got me hooked, I have to mail order it at double cost.
But today we’re talking about different kind of cookies – those that websites place on your computer to track your browsing habits and to report back to the “mother site”. And the reason of course is Google’s introduction of behavioral advertising. Eran fully embraces this as a conceptual change not just in advertising:
Google’s move can (hopefully) mark the beginning of a personal internet era where sites will customize their entire layout and content based on the preferences, or habits of the browsing users.
My favorite news site will know I care about tech and biz. and never read sports news and will modify its homepage layout based on these preferences, the recommendation widget on my blog will show post recommendation based on the viewers’ recent browsing history rather than based on traffic, and so on…
But of course privacy advocates are up in arms. They are worried about Big Brother watching us. Well I have news for them: this is nothing new, we all know since Scott McNealy we don’t have privacy anyway. We’ve known for a long time Google has been grabbing all our digital data – we’ve been and we are assimilated, resistance is futile. But we went along because in return we got convenience, features we would not give up, or we were just too lazy to resist. Well, then why do we cry when Google actually turns all this amassed data into a useful service?
Scott McNealy got chastised for his famous declaration in 1998 – perhaps he was a bit ahead of his time, but things got a lot worse (better?) since then. Let’s just look at cookies (not the tasty ones pictured above).
The obvious Privacy 101 principle in the 90’s was to control them. Since then we’ve seen an army of cookie-washer products, the popular browsers all offer their own privacy/cookie settings – yet all this works less and less. Quite a few sites – including blogs – will fail to load properly when seemingly unrelated, third-party cookies are blocked. Sometimes they work, but next time you come back to the site, there’s just a white, blank screen. This is ugly. Since we can’t easily figure out what blocked the site, we typically end up deleting all browser cookies as well as all cookie-rules. Then the game starts again – some of the sites / blogs take minutes to rotate through dozens of cookie-requests, literally making it impossible to read their own content.
I’ve given up: might as well just enable cookies – privacy is long gone, anyway. Besides, I agree with Eran, if I am getting ads served up, they might as well be better targeted.
Still want to resist? Well, you should not use search. Or web-mail. And change your user-names to all services daily. In fact you should shut down the Internet, remove any computers from the house and lock yourself up in your home. Better yet, move to a remote island, where everything is low-tech and healthy.
Update: Just as I finished writing this, news broke that Google will release Grand Central
, the service it acquired almost two years ago as Google Voice. I was lucky enough to get in before they froze accepting new accounts after the acquisition and have been a happy user ever since. Google Voice comes bundled with useful services including text transcription of your voicemail. Guess what: we’ll be happy to give Google our phone numbers, contacts, messages, let it transcribe and analyze our messages – in other words we’re feeding another huge chunk of our lives to the Borg. And we love every minute of it. 2015 isn’t that far …