Benefits and Drawbacks of Cookies’
Jeff Andrew (B00107736)
Department of Business
School of Business & Humanities
Institute of Technology Blanchardstown
limit for assignment: 1500 Actual word count: 1560
Digital Enterprise/Semester one
29th November 2017
Essay #3: Cookies are widely used to track
consumers and profile their preferences and interests. Discuss the benefits and
Cookies have become an online phenomenon.
They have many benefits and drawbacks for both businesses and consumers in
modern society. Everyone that has access to the internet, a phone or laptop and
uses the Google search engine to browse for their content of interest, is prone
to the implementation of cookies on their virtual profiles. Cookies are
controversially beneficial to businesses more so than consumers; however,
consumers do get suggestions/advertisements of the content they are interested
Consumers often use a search engine such as
Google to browse for content that applies to their lifestyle, interests,
hobbies and career focused information. Every search that is carried out by a
consumer, on any browser, is monitored and recorded. This data is collected using
a size 1×1 bit code labelled cookies, that acts as a trail of all the users
searches on a web browser, which can then be used by high-end companies and
corporations to focus on target marketing the consumer’s needs and wants. In
one reading it is stated that “During one 15-minute surfing period, one
investigator’s computer was inundated with 600 cookies, 350 of which were the
tracking variety.” (Mail Online, 2017).
The primary functions of cookies are to track the users’ data, leave online
traces of the users online surfing habits and inform businesses of your
personal data, allowing them to funnel the content which correlates to the
Cookies have many drawbacks for consumers.
Most internet users are fully capable of finding content of value which applies
to them online, however despite them being satisfied, the cookies will track
their data and expose them to numerous marketing schemes. One of them being
advertising. Advertisements focused on the characteristics and preferences of
the consumer will start to populate their webpages, appear on YouTube Ads and
will result in Facebook recommending certain products or services. “They rely on vast networks of retailers who
allow them to send their cookies to you each time you visit their websites.”
(Mail Online, 2017). However, these businesses suggest that they are benign in
their process of collecting personal data of consumers, “These
information-gatherers argue that the data they collect about you is anonymous
and they don’t actually care who you are — only that they are sending you
adverts they think you need.” (Mail Online, 2017).
This is where
controversy escalates. Information-gathers claim that the data collected is
anonymous, while many consumers believe that their personal information is
being monetized in a very discreet and insincere manner. It is difficult to
identify which businesses are exploiting sensitive information without the
consumers consent, since these processes are all digital, which makes it easier
to take advantage of the public. “A recent
investigation found that innocent visits to the websites of companies such as
Tesco or Debenhams resulted in dozens of third-party tracking cookies being
placed on the hard drives of computers.” (Mail Online, 2017). Customers have become extremely concerned with
the invasion of privacy and exploitation of personal data on a global scale.
Companies such as Google have bypassed security measures which block
third-party cookies using Safari, while telling the public that “their surfing
habits would not be tracked because of the Safari protection and on the other
hand they had people at Google actually writing programming code that
would undermine Safari’s cookie protection” (Mail Online, 2017). This is a
prime example of high-end companies attempting to exploit the vulnerable
information of the public online. Measures should be taken to prevent corporate
companies from taking advantage of the sensitive personal data from online
users. “That is an invasion of privacy and a breach of European and UK data
protection legislation. Google has already been fined $22?million (£14?million)
by the Federal Trade Commission for doing this in the U.S.” (Online Mail,
Another viewpoint from which cookies serve
as a serious concern, with respect to online consumer privacy is the lack of
consumer knowledge regarding cookie functions, their degree of threat to
privacy, and how to manage them. Prior research has reported that online
consumers are often confused about the pros and cons of cookies, also that most
are not able to properly identify what a cookie is (Ha et al. 2006; Hoofnagle
2005). Many consumers are not aware of
numerous technologies that they can use online which can reduce the invasion of
privacy through cookies, at no extra cost.
Jensen, Potts, and Jensen (2005) report
that though a clear majority (90.3%) of their experienced Internet user sample
claimed to have knowledge of cookies, further tests indicated that only 15.5%
making that claim demonstrated simple cookie knowledge. This ignorance suggests
that consumers may have limited capability to deal efficiently with the
potential for cookie-related invasions of privacy. Evidence suggests that most
consumers do not use technology to prevent cookies from being placed on their
computers (Ha et al. 2006; Jensen, Potts, and Jensen 2005; Milne, Rohm, and
seem to cause a lot of disputes about ethics and privacy, however, organising
the advertising you see on websites is particularly important. This is often
the scenario when websites displace a cookie from a separate advertising
delivery company. Cookies store any users’ information after a click of an advertisement,
storing the time, location and content viewed. These cookies constantly send
retrieved data to whoever owns the cookie. This data is then used to ensure
customers are not bombarded with similar adds more than necessary.
from different ad networks, systems utilized by advertising organisations may
form “segments” of different search engines that show comparable behaviours. This
information pool will then be used to formulate conclusions resembling what the
target audience using the browsers interests are. Examples include “Badminton
lovers”, “Painters” and “Cinema goers”. The cookies that carry out this
specific function are called third-party advertising
cookies. Based on expected time parameters
the most cost-efficient strategy is used in advertising to certain types of
consumer and possible candidates for target marketing are acquired. Services
are then recommended to marketers, in correspondence to the advertisements that
proved profitable when targeted at specific groups. Cookies enable advertisers
to essentially know their consumers better and focus resources in correlation
to the data collected by the cookies.
Despite the numerous drawbacks users
experience through cookies, there are also a descent amount of benefits. Cookies remember which websites you have been
to and record information about forms. Cookies make filling out address forms
quick and efficient. Most online shopping websites nowadays allow cookies for
address and email information but make the consumer fill out their credit
card information each time. They are great for serving up personalized
content that is geared towards that specific user’s preferences. Amazon
marketing campaigns targeting precise market segments. These include geolocation,
demographics, product groups and search terms. Browsers in general aim to make
it simple for the average user to erase their stored browsing history. These
cookies are then stored on the hard drives of consumers in a specific text
file. Due to this being the case, any user can edit or delete stored cookies
found in this file.
There are two types of cookies, “First-party
cookies are those cookies that belong to sites you actually visited in your
browser, while third-party cookies, also known as tracking cookies, are
advertising web sites.” (LifeHacker.com, 2017). With this information users can
identify and make use of Google extensions or plugins, which can focus on
blocking both First-party cookies and third-part cookies.
In conclusion, cookies have many benefits
to consumers and businesses, while having more drawbacks to consumers rather
than the information-gathers. Businesses, such as Google, attempt to exploit
personal data of the consumers which cause a lot of controversy online, in
terms of invasion of privacy and exploiting user information for corporate
gains. However, cookies do suggest relevant content to many online users based
on their searches. In terms of filling-out forms and signing into accounts,
cookies are very helpful in auto-filling your details.
Online. (2017). Your computer is watching you: How sinister ‘cookies’
track your every move online. online Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2277265/Your-watching-How-sinister-cookies-track-online.html
Accessed 29 Nov. 2017.
Datapro.fiu.edu. (2017). Online
Privacy and the Disclosure of Cookie Use: Effects on Consumer Trust and
Anticipated Patronage. online Available at:
Accessed 29 Nov. 2017.
Lifehacker.com. (2017). Fact and Fiction: The Truth About Browser
Cookies. online Available at:
Accessed 29 Nov. 2017.
(2017). Privacy practices of Internet users: Self-reports versus
observed behaviour. online Available at:
29 Nov. 2017.
Y. (2017). Pros & Cons of Using Browser Cached Cookies: A Google
Story | Internet Marketing Inc.. online Internet Marketing Inc. Available
Accessed 29 Nov. 2017.
Geary, J. (2017). Tracking the
trackers: Introduction to cookies and web tracking. online the Guardian.
Accessed 29 Nov. 2017.