Just An Online Minute... Are Ad Servers Pickpockets?
But at least one voice continues to hammer away at installers of cookies. Walt Mossberg, technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal, voiced complaints about such cookies directly to the industry executives responsible for them this week at the Anti-Spyware Coalition conference in Washington.
Delivering a luncheon keynote address to about 300 consumer advocates and executives from the online ad and media industry, he blasted the "supposedly legitimate companies who are under the delusion that it's okay to force their way into our computers for advertising, marketing and research purposes."
He likened the installation of tracking cookies--which follow users from site to site online and collect information about domains visited and ads shown--to trespass, and argued for legislation outlawing placing this type of cookie on users' computers without consent.
"If you're providing a valuable service that benefits consumers, why are you doing it in the dark?" he asked, rhetorically.
Mossberg also made short shrift of efforts by analytics and ad-serving companies aimed at exempting cookies from legislation: "It's as if all the pickpockets in New York got together and formed a union and they went to the police and city council and said, 'You know, we're not as bad as the guys who mug you in the alley and break into your house and hold you at gunpoint,'" Mossberg said.
He likewise had no patience with the argument that cookies provide a service to consumers by enabling targeted ads. "I've been online every day since 1983 and have never once seen an ad targeted to [me]," he said, as about half the audience erupted in applause.
Other audience members, however, tried to challenge Mossberg's interpretation. One executive told him that the Internet worked based on cookies--to which Mossberg more or less responded that the Internet could be set up to work however people wanted.