LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

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Microsoft `cookie' plan is flawed: 24/7 CEO

In the editorial "Cookie Curbs" (Viewpoint, AA, July 31), Ad Age praises Microsoft's plan to conspicuously prompt online users when their browsers receive third-party cookies as a "bold welcome step to advance consumer privacy." Unfortunately, such a plan does not truly advance consumer privacy and could seriously harm the access to as well as the diverse and free content available on the Web.

As an active participant in the development of online advertising and privacy standards, 24/7 Media sees a need to educate the press and public about the consumer and economic realities regarding cookies.

To an online consumer, cookies should not be viewed as evil code placed on a user's computer browser. Rather, consumers must be told about the many valuable functions of cookies, such as customizing content for Internet users and remembering user passwords and identification codes. Cookies also enable consumers to receive potentially relevant marketing and advertising if they allow online advertisers to utilize anonymous user profiles of topical interests, such as sports, finance or gardening.

From an economic perspective, the use of cookies by advertisers enables Web sites to exist and flourish on the Web. Smaller and medium-sized sites rely on ad revenue as a key component in their business models. Internet advertising allows sites to offer content to consumers free of charge. Therefore, more effective advertising through the use of cookies brings more diverse content to online users without cost -- the same model magazines, radio and network TV have relied on for years.

The question then remains: Does the new Microsoft tool actually protect consumer privacy?

Fact: The Microsoft tool does not prompt a user when Microsoft or its numerous partners place a cookie on a user's computer. The user is prompted only when the cookie belongs to a third party advertiser.

This practice can easily be viewed as establishing an unfair playing field that allows Microsoft to collect users' profiles while effectively prohibiting third party advertising companies from doing the same.

Where is the real protection to the consumer? The consumer is never informed of the intended uses to which the third party cookies may be put, or the differences between the Microsoft cookie and the third party cookie.

As a founding member of the NAI (Network Advertising Initiative), 24/7 Media has worked with the Federal Trade Commission to help develop a set of principles designed to fully inform consumers in a robust manner about third party cookies and data use practices. The NAI principles have been endorsed by the FTC and represent true leadership and responsibility in educating and informing online consumers about privacy practices.

Unfortunately, the Microsoft approach makes the decision for the consumer that third party cookies are inherently negative and warrant a prompt, while Microsoft cookies are inherently good and users need not be promoted about them.

24/7 Media would rather give consumers the right to choose which, if any, cookies they desire to utilize on their computers. The only way to enable true choice by consumers is to arm them with full disclosure regarding privacy and cookie uses. In reality, the Microsoft tool does not advance true choice among consumers, it makes the choice for them.

The only way we can guarantee success for all in this important debate is to insure every voice in our industry is heard, not just the voices of the large players.

David J. Moore

Chief Executive Officer

24/7 Media

New York

Corrections

* In "Brady's Bunch" (Aug. 21, P. 35), Ellen Asmodeo-Giglio was recently appointed VP-publisher of Travel & Leisure, not senior account manager. Jacqueline London is the new senior account manager.

* In "Doral shows smokers how it works `harder' " (Aug. 14. P. 26), R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. misidentified the agency handling direct mail for its Winston Racing Nation program. The correct agency is Gyro Worldwide, Philadelphia.

* In "Print media take giant tech step" (July 31. P. S-14), Hearst Magazines is the publisher of Popular Mechanics, not Ziff Davis Media.

* In "Optimism reigns at online bazaar" (July 31, P. S-16) Buymedia.com said it will process more than $500 million in orders this year, not $500,000.

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