Collecting Behavioral Data Through Cookies

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Websites are more and more targeting advertisements based on data collected using cookies and other techniques. This behavioral data collection often riles many visitors and privacy advocates, although there is no doubt that this technique will get even bigger in the future.

Behavioral data tracking has greatly increased in the past few years. As per a report from Krux, the technology has seen a 400% increase since November 2010 with new firms entering the market with amazing regularity.

This technique allows advertisers to provide better targeted advertisements to visitors. This situation is win-win for both publishers and advertisers as publishers get to demand more money for the exposure and advertisers get to reach the right eyeballs. The future of this technology looks bright with social media giants like Facebook also utilizing users’ browsing history to target ads.

Data is mainly collected through users’ browser. This is generally known as cookie data. It may be collected by the website you are on and even third party advertisers that are linked with the website. The data collected gives deep information about a user including income, educational level, age, likes and dislikes and possible future plans. Information gathered is used to create user profiles and is often sent or sold to clients in real time.

Many activists are against websites having access to such information as it is considered an intrusion of one’s privacy by many. However, on their part, websites have a privacy policy and terms and services that visitors have to abide by. When Google updated its privacy policy and introduced such plans it received a backlash from every corner.

Many companies are willing to pay huge amount for such data because it has been proven to be reliable. As per a study by IDC, the industry has gone from 0 to 500 billion dollars in a short period of five years. Advertisers are no more interested in orthodox methods of advertising where the returns are not that high. They are looking for better options that they see in online marketing for which behavioral data collection is very important.

There is no doubt that this technology is here to stay and will only grow further in the next few years. However, the real question here is if users should be concerned about this change. Unfortunately, there can be no concrete answer to this question.

Many industries have been involved in behavioral data collection for a long time. However, the recent surge seen has given rise to new controversies. The best practice is to be aware of the kind of information or data that is being extracted out. Some websites even give users the choice to block collection of data if they are not comfortable with it.

Users can get such information simply by reading a website’s privacy policy that generally highlights the kind of data they extract and the purpose it is used for. Many experts also argue that it is nothing to be worried about because they do not always know ‘who you are’ and most targeting is done anonymously.

Since the technology is helping almost everyone involved, there is nothing to worry about until it starts causing serious damage.

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