Letter to the Editor

March 1, 2002

Following the article on the SCL Web site and many reports elsewhere, I thought I would add a little realism to the debate.

1. Cookies don’t work for decent marketing in many situations because most home PCs and many work PCs will be used by several people, but the cookies will treat them as a single entity, with at the least confusing and potentially dangerous results. I don’t want the site to remember my credit card if someone else accesses it through the same PC! I don’t even like Amazon’s new feature of telling you on the front page what you’ve looked at and bought recently: it makes shopping for surprises for my partner very difficult!

2. Most sites have decent security beyond the cookie stage, so that when you want to place the order you have to login, even if the site recognises you. This means the argument that the site cannot keep your address and other relevant details doesn’t stand up: these are accessed based on your login rather than a cookie.

3. Companies with Internet sites are saying it’s a lot of work to change, but there have been complaints about the privacy issues of cookies for years, and most browsers already allow you to stop cookies (if you spend the time to find out how) so any site that relies critically on cookies is simply badly designed, and shouldn’t have our sympathy.

4. We wouldn’t allow such an intrusion in privacy in other aspects of our lives. If someone started following us around, making notes of every item we bought and every shop window we even looked in, we would protest. Much of this information can be found from credit card records, but there is extensive regulation of this data to prevent abuse. All other privacy loss is on an ‘opt in’ basis, so cookies should be too.

Bernard Gore

Legal IT Projects Manager, Addleshaw Booth & Co

For another view on cookies, see The Cookie Monster? If you have a view on this issue, why not share it with other SCL members? email Laurence Eastham at lseastham@aol.com