logo The Cookie Controversy - Lori Eichelberger M.L.I.S


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   The Future of Cookies

There seems to be a great deal of controversy that has arisen in recent months concerning the practice of using cookies. Media coverage has been largely negative, and the discussions in the FTC hearings have likely fueled the anti-cookie fires. Given this, the ability of recent browser options to refuse accepting cookies, and the growing number of add-on programs to disable them altogether, it seems possible that cookies may already be becoming obsolete.

Concurrent with the FTC hearings, Netscape and Microsoft, among over 60 other companies, have agreed to a new proposed system of collecting user information on a strictly voluntary basis. The Open Profiling Standard (OPS) would allow computer users to create their own profiles, including their names, e-mail addresses, hobbies and interests, and any other information that they wish websites to have. OPS "gives users control over their Personal Profile and the ability to manage which personal information gets disclosed or withheld from a particular Internet sites. As a result, individuals can respond to requests from Internet sites for personal information with all, some or none of the requested data." (Netscape Press Release, May 27, 1997) The main purpose of OPS is to protect user privacy while still allowing for the individualized Internet advertising that cookies are designed for. As an additional safety measure, user information is to be encrypted to protect privacy (Kanellos). As with all technological innovations, the success of OPS remains to be seen. Many advertisers and marketing consultants have based a great deal of their marketing strategies on the use of cookies, but may be forced to adapt to OPS as cookies are increasingly rejected by users. Likewise, the privacy and security issues will still remain, and it will be up to the OPS developers to ensure that it will not be met with the same media suspicion that cookies created.

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