Industry Experts: Consumer Education Key to Saving Cookies

NEW YORK – Marketers at a conference in Manhattan identified consumer education as one key to addressing the much debated cookie deletion problem.

At a forum held Wednesday by the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI), panelists and attendees suggested a variety of potential solutions to convince computer users to keep cookies, but they reached no consensus. Though experts also discussed working with legislators, developing new technology and negotiating with anti-spyware tool makers, the need for consumer education was a recurring theme.

The key concept marketers believe should be communicated is that cookies allow consumers to receive content and tools for free.

“There needs to be a process to educate consumers on how cookies are a part of the food chain,” explained Brooks Dobbs, director of privacy technology at DoubleClick. “Consumers need to understand the trade-off. Their eyeballs are printing money.”

How to deliver that message was up for debate. Some suggested an informational link or an FAQ could be posted prominently on sites that serve cookies. More aggressive approaches, including one suggested by an attendee, would involve forcing users to acknowledge the reasoning for a cookie before accessing content. Upon entering a site, for example, users could be greeted by a pop-up that they would have to acknowledge and accept before they could access content.

Panelists speaking on consumer education agreed about the importance of regularly reminding users about cookies. Publishers might require users to re-opt-in to receive cookies at certain time intervals, for example.

Larry Ponemon, president of The Ponemon Institute, likened this to call centers stating that a customer service call may be recorded. “Let the people in the audience know they are still in the audience,” he said.

Both Safecount and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) have said they’re looking at undertaking consumer education efforts, but neither has announced specific initiatives.

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