Have you ever wondered how do all these companies representing big brands advertise to you? How does sometimes, we receive emails from brands we might have half -heartedly sometime in the past bought a small item and then completely forgotten about them? How do brands online track you all over the sites you have been surfing? A little creepy no doubt but this is the power of the information and technology age! A few decades ago, such things would be alien to even mention in a group discussion, but now this is the way of life for millions of us, every day!
This phenomenon comes from the word, cookies! According to Wikipedia, originally coined by web browser programmer Lou Montulli. it was derived from the word magic cookie, further derived from fortune cookie, a cookie with an embedded message inside. The concept of the cookie in our digital lives does the same thing. While we are surfing various websites, the sites themselves drops a packet of data (cookie) on our computer, hence leaving a trail behind, which could be tracked in the future. Simple enough to understand, right? The wilder part is that these cookies can be hidden in the URL (unique resource locator) of the sites you are surfing, hence pretty much helpless for the person who is surfing and trying to get job A and job B done before rushing off to his or her appointment! Little does he or she know that their computer is being tracked for the future by the websites they might have visited.
This same practice of dropping cookies on the user’s computers is most popular amongst the advertisers. The advertisers are able to track several of their leads this way and are able to gather as much information as possible about their prospective and current customers. When a cookie has the same domain as the URL, it is called the first party cookie and when the URL and the cookie have different domains, it is the third-party cookies, usually in case of the advertisers who provide banner ads on the websites, which when clicked drops the cookie on the system. These cookies can then further track the behaviour of the users, the sites they have been visiting, when have they logged in and many such activities done by the user on that particular system. This can further be tracked to other systems, the user might be using at office or any other place where he or she reveals his or her identity anyhow, whether through a previous site or any social accounts such as facebook, LinkedIn. Then there are super cookies too, which is mainly with the top-level domain such as .com and .co.uk. These domains usually have some security issues and are blocked by the most of the browsers. The other types of cookies or rather the jobs that can be done by them are namely tracking, zombie ( these are cookies that are recreated after deletion by being placed in multiple locations on either client-side or the server-side), session management cookies and personalization. Hence, it is easy to say that the world we live in today is one which is totally interconnected, it’s your perspective, how you would want to look at it? I personally feel it is a brilliant one, the digital age we are living in, the cutting edge technology which is available today and it will only get better, considering, of course, the fact that it all contributes towards the growth of the human knowledge and shared beyond boundaries.
Knowing all that we know about the cookies and how these are used in today’s market to track everyone online, there are of course some genuine concerns for the security of millions of users out there who don’t feel comfortable with this business. But knowing things that can be done with the help of these cookies, it can safely be argued that the buyer’s personalisation has also in recent times been taken into serious consideration, hence more and more importance given to the end-consumers than the products themselves as traditionally done.
Conclusively, leaving with some thoughts; what are the extremes to which these so-called cookies, which are very prevalent today in the marketing world, would be allowed to go in one consumer’s life? Although there are some securities set up to avoid the cookies or delete them, it is still arguably debatable and there are no clear grounds set on them?