Much Ado About Nothing: Why the Cookie Craze?

In the Wired article “Stop the Do Not Track Madness,” Lauren Weinstein takes issue with the controversy around “Do Not Track” functionality for browsers to block cookies.  As he notes, “emotion and political gamesmanship have often replaced common sense and logic to no good end.”  As someone who has worked with internet technologies since the development of ARPANET  in the 70s, I respect his perspective on this issue.

We see groups making an emotional appeal to the press/consumers that cookies are by default a bad thing for consumers and need to be stopped. Politicians seem to be using this argument in order to score points, but they don’t truly understand how the technologies involved work or the impact their proposals would have. There have been efforts to build privacy controls directly into the browser before the Platform for Privacy Preferences Project (P3P), but ultimately those standards were not widely adopted and the impact was minimal (I believe only Internet Explorer supports P3P).  To Mr. Weinstein’s point, preventing data collection and reducing the value of web ads to advertisers is going to hurt websites that are offering content and services at no cost to the visitor.

Industry self-regulation efforts to date have worked to provide transparency and multiple levels of control to consumers when it comes to interest data being collected online.

  • The first level of control that the consumer has is the cookie itself – cookies are inherently temporary storage mechanisms.
  • The second level of control is restricting the kind of data that companies can collect.
  • A third level of control over most companies in the space is to completely open the kimono and be transparent to the consumer about the information we have in a cookie about them and give them the ability to change those preferences or delete the cookie altogether.

We were one of the early advocates for consumer transparency – our preference manager was one of the first projects our R&D team built. By collecting only aggregate data points,  not collecting personally-identifiable data, keeping that data for only a short period of time, and being transparent to the consumer about what targeting attributes are associated with their cookies, we believe the trade-off to more relevant ads that are more valuable to advertisers and websites will make for a positive web experience – for all parties involved.

2011: eXelate in the News

This year has been an eventful one at eXelate, so we put together a clickable infographic of all the major press we’ve received for exciting new partnerships, announcements, hires, and bylines.

Let’s hope 2012 is just as exciting!

eXelate 2011 - A Banner Year in the Press

eXelate Introduces PMP Product - January 18 New SVP Consulting in EU - January 25 eXelate Releases DataLinX Platform - March 22 AutoBytel Selects eXelate DMP eXelate Teams Up with Martini Media - June 2 eXelate Ramps Up Analytics - June 2 Longboard Selects eXelate DMP - August 19 eXelate Joins Council for Accountable Advertising - October 4 eXelate Partners with Cognitive Match - October 21 eXelate Data comScore Verified - November 21 Women in AdTech - December 7 Audience Value Chain White Paper - December 9

New Study Says The Industry Needs to Make Opt-out Less Scary

Just in time for Halloween, a new study from Carnegie Mellon indicates that the industry needs to make its opt-out tools less scary for consumers.

The Carnegie Mellon researchers put opt-out usability under a microscope and found there’s still a lot to be desired. The study looked at nine different tools within three broad categories:

  • Cross-network/cross-platform opt-out tools
  • Browser tools
  • Ad and tracking blockers

Among the findings, the study indicates that:

  • Users have a difficult time distinguishing between third-party trackers
  • Opt out interfaces do not have appropriate defaults
  • Insufficient communication about tool purpose and methodology is a pervasive issue
  • Many opt out tools do not provide effective feedback for users during and after the opt out process
  • Protection from broken web sites is either not available or not clear
  • Interfaces for out-out tools are generally confusing

This type of usability testing is an excellent reference point for anyone designing or working with opt out tools. You can skim the abstract or read the whole study.

They Do Data! Our 2 Cents on The Wall Street Journal’s Amended Privacy Policy

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal announced a change to its privacy policy. As the publisher of a groundbreaking series on online privacy and digital tracking, this move by the Wall Street Journal is already generating a fair amount of criticism and buzz around the net.

From the WSJ’s blog post, it appears that this effort is driven in part by a need to standardize its policies across its network of owned sites. But it’s certainly also an acknowledgement of the value of visitor data and the importance of audience monetization to publisher business models.

We think this is positive news for the Wall Street Journal, and indicative of a larger shift of more and more media companies leveraging data to drive premium digital marketing initiatives. The bottom line is that to be competitive with mega-audience engines like Google and Facebook, publishers have to play the targeting game as well, if not better.

Some other conclusions can be drawn from this move:

Transparency is key.

The WSJ not only changed its policy, but announced the change separately and included its reasons for doing so in the announcement. Smart move that was handled well.

Policies must be clear to the layperson.

Some of the Journal’s critics have rightfully pointed out that some of the language both in the policy and by the Journal’s spokeswoman are not easy for the layperson to decipher.

Publisher data sharing with user opt out is the norm.

The industry has consolidated around the opt out model and more and more publishers see the value in using audience data to deliver relevant content and advertising.


What’s your take on the Wall Street Journal’s shift? Leave us a comment…

DataLinX and DataShield- Lunch and Learn at OMMA Behavioral

Learn more about our publisher tools for data management, including DataLinX.