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Use of Cookies

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Use of Cookies:
Data Collection and Privacy Concerns
Merle E. Jones, Jr.
UMUC IFSM 201
Abstract
This paper explores the uses and privacy issues of cookies a user’s internet browser in tracking daily activity for use of companies for online behavioral advertising (OBA). Using the information gathered, this paper examines the growth of the use of cookies to the eventual privacy control issues that have become common place. Sullivan (2012) discusses the personal data economy and online programs that allow companies to track the online and offline actions of their customers. Kuehn (2013) and Gervais (2014) both go into the government’s reaction and eventual lax policy toward cookies. Kuehn (2013) compares the use of current cookies to the use of deep packet inspection (DPI) that was eventually eliminated, even though cookies raise similar privacy concerns.
Keywords: browser cookies, privacy, government, regulation, advertising, information policy

Use of Cookies:
Data Collection and Privacy Concerns
The continued and growing use of the internet has allow the collection of data on a broad spectrum. The gathering of everyday activities online, paired with complex algorithms, has allowed a company to predict what an individual is looking for or what they may be interested in buying in the future. These cookies used for advertising purposes don’t pose that much of a threat, but in the hands of a government or government entity, the privacy concerns become more noticeable.
The Collection of Data
Online advertising has been receiving large budgets. Since the increase of online activity has allowed for ease of access to information, companies have begun using this source as the best source for pushing out their advertisements (Kuehn, 2013). Each time an individual searches for something, comments on something, likes something on Facebook, or clicks on a link, that information is gathered and analyzed. Due to the large amounts of sites’ revenue is through advertising1, the way this information is processed has become more efficient. Every bit of data that is gathered will eventually be traded or sold (Sullivan, 2012). This large, and seemingly endless, amount of data holds information that one may not want ending up in unwanted places such as spam emails or harmful information databases. Collection of data hasn’t just been limited to one’s online life. Offline lives are now being scanned and uploaded in a digital world. Birth records, home records, criminal records, and even political affiliation and voting records are now being fed into databases. This, combined with our online activities, gives a much narrower view of an individual. This allows for even more specific ad and email targeting.
Privacy
Gervais, 2014, states that even though individuals understand the privacy risk of cookies tracking their information, most fail to, or don’t bother, to block cookies completely from their computers. He states that this may be the reason for the government’s lax policy toward restricting the use of cookies for information gathering. Advancements in behavioral tracking, along with integrating geo-location and data from third parties have now pushed the cookie to a new level that begin to stretch the individuals’ privacy concerns. Privacy issues are not new when it comes to collection of data for advertising purposes. Clams, not to be confused with cookies, didn’t just do a quick skim of information transmitted as part of an HTTP request. Clams allowed for deep packet inspection (DPI). The DPI may have been limited in most instances, but the ability to extract information down to the specific file types and ports made the privacy concern so great, they eventually led to a public outcry for it to discontinue. Instead of going to Google and the Google cookies being read, it was noticed non-Google cookies were being read. This dug deeper into an individual’s history, practices, and allowed for a much better online behavior advertising targeting.
Resolution
A finalized resolution to the privacy concerns of cookies has not been reached. Government sites allow the use of cookies, but they don’t allow third-party cookies on their sites (Gervais 2014). This practice is used on other sites. Since individuals have the ability to block cookies, but most don’t, government regulation on cookies may not be seen for some time. The gradual evolution of the cookie has allowed for a much more accurate analysis of an individual, but due to this gradual evolution, most individuals do not notice the change. Until a drastic change happens that makes it plainly obvious individuals’ privacy is at risk, cookies will continued to be used.
Conclusion
Privacy concerns for cookies have been around for quite some time, but due to the ability to limit or block cookies, government regulation has not been mandated. Each time an individual makes a search, posts on social sites, sends an email2, or even “likes” a video, the data is collected by cookies. This data is then analyzed, processed, and eventually sold to allow for target advertising. Cookies are no longer used just to save specific site preferences, they have become a strong tool in an ever changing world of online advertising.

References
Gervais, N. (2013). Governmental Internet Information Collection: Cookies Placing Personal Privacy at Risk. Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science & Technology, 40(2), 27-31.
Kuehn, A. (2013). Cookies versus clams: clashing tracking technologies and online privacy. Info, 15(6), 19-31. doi: 10.1108/INFO-04-2013-0013
Sullivan, M. (2012). Data Snatchers!. PC World, 30(8), 77.

Footnotes
1 96 percent of Google’s 2011 revenue was generated through advertising (Kuehn, 2013)
2 Microsoft’s Scroogled campaign made it well known that Google was analyzing email content in an attempt to have more targeted ads.

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