Taking Aim at Targeted Advertising – This Spells Trouble, Especially for TACODA


Catherine Holahan published an article today, Taking Aim at Targeted Advertising in BusinessWeek.com that brings up the idea of opt-in vs. opt-out privacy with respect to behavioral targeting.  It suggests that giving people the ability to decide if they want to be tracked is a viable option without considering what will happen to the independence of the Web.  TACODA has tried to distance itself from the debate with a proactice resolution which could bring more trouble to the company than benefit.


 


The CCD is meeting with the FTC on Thursday (Nov 17th) as a follow-up to their November 1st complaint filing.  They want to see people given the right to opt-in to cookie tracking and targeting.


 


In complete reactionary mode, TACODA is limiting their cookie lifespan to 1 year and is offering people the opportunity to acquire a cookie to block the cookie that TACODA uses to track people’s behaviors.  Let me get this straight, use a cookie to block a cookie.  Maybe we need a little explanation about how cookies work….


 


A cookie is a text file that is posted to a users browser.  Only a domain can write or read it’s own cookie file.  So, if www.TACODA.com writes a .tacoda.com cookie, only TACODA can read that cookie, nobody else.  The cookie may be a “track.tacoda.com” cookie or it may be a “donottrack.tacoda.com “cookie.  Either way, only TACODA can write or read it.


 


Now, when a user lands on a domain, the web site automatically looks for its cookie files.  This is inherent to how web site servers operate.  You actually can not prevent a web site from scanning a browser for its cookies.  That means that if there is a TACODA cookie, it WILL get read.  Regardless of whether it is the cookie that is intended to track behavior or if it is a cookie intended to not track behavior, it will be read by TACODA’s servers.  TACODA may decide not to do anything with the data recorded by the “donottrack.tacoda.com” cookie, but it will still read it when it sees it. 



The only way to avoid reading cookies is to make sure that there is no cookie to be read.  That means that there can never have been a TACODA cookie written which is not possible, obviously.
 


So this initiative by TACODA is a rouse.  All they are doing is proposing to put out a cookie that will tell them not to record information about someone when in fact they will still be tracking you!  But I bet you will not find this explanation coming anywhere from TACODA.


 


The only way to serve ads completely absent of cookies, cookieless ad serving, is to do so from a domain that has never written or read a cookie – a virgin domain.  TACODA is a domain with cookie history prevalent on the web so it is impossible for it not to encounter its own cookie.  TruEffect offers SafeServe™ Cookieless Ad serving, another patented innovation and a topic for another blog entry.  Serving ads from a domain that has never written a cookie means it will never encounter a cookie to read: cookieless ad serving.


 


The take away here is this: TACODA has run forward with a fast reactive solution to try to distance itself from the smoke of this FTC complaint.  But it is easy to point out that they have actually created a potentially bigger problem for themselves insomuch that they can’t turn off their tracking.  Anyone with any TACODA cookie, will have that cookie read and is therefore, by definition, being tracked.

Your comments are welcome.

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