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July 10, 2004

A Quick Note About Cookies

I keep reading about people blocking cookies. And when I read these statements, between the lines tends to be an attitude of fear bolstered by newfound personal empowerment, suggesting that they think that cookies are tools of the underworld and that they are like noble knights effective at protecting their computers. These people drive me nuts.

I don't block or mess with any cookies at all. Why would I? Why would you? If you're intercepting cookies and making individual decisions on them, then chances are that you're making the decision based upon an internal monologue such as, "Well, website, you've not convinced me of any reason why I should allow this cookie, so I'm not going to allow it." That, of course, is precisely what is meant by the phrase, "afraid of things you don't understand", and making decisions of that nature is...well, let's just say that it's not exactly laudible. Further, I'll wager that any individual cookie that anyone is deleting in that manner is one that they're harming themselves to some degree by not allowing. For instance, if it's a "banner ad" cookie which is tracking which banners the user has seen in the past and which ones the user has clicked and how often, then by leaving it alone the banner server is more likely to advertise to the user content which is important to the user or which the user has some interest in. I can hear the howls now: "Horrors! Well, I wouldn't want a website to actually show me things that I'm interested in seeing!!!" .

Exploiting people's ignorance by playing on the vice of fearing that which one doesn't understand has become commonplace, unfortunately. Even the makers of the best of products, such as ZoneAlarm, use this tactic to try to convince people of the value of their products.

I'd love for someone to share with me legitimate, that is: not paranoid, reasons for blocking cookies. My hunch is that such reasons apply to very few individuals and isolated events, and do not suggest a global policy of denial with specific rules to allow.

Posted by Jeff at July 10, 2004 05:52 PM

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