Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Way the Digital Cookie Crumbles

"The Way the Digital Cookie Crumbles." The Wall Street Journal, July 15, 2012.

From the article: "This use of cookies fuels the economics of the Web, but it has also caused anxiety as people have had to reconsider analog-era expectations of privacy to embrace digital-era benefits of sharing data. A Wall Street Journal report last week caused some consternation when it revealed how the travel website Orbitz uses data to give different offers to people who use Apple computers and those using Windows-based machines. 

Data analysts at Orbitz detected patterns showing that Apple users spend up to 30% more a night on hotels and are likelier to book four- or five-star lodgings than PC users. Apple users buy more expensive computers, and the average household income for adult owners of Mac computers is almost $100,000, compared with about $75,000 for PC owners, according to Forrester. 

When Orbitz used these data to feature higher-priced hotels more prominently in Apple users' search results, privacy lobbyists claimed outrage. But even in the analog era, readers of this newspaper saw advertisements for different products and services than readers of less high-end papers.

These uses of personal data can seem a bit creepy, but the evidence also shows how quickly consumers have gotten used to being tracked. When given the choice, few consumers opt out of cookies. People accept the benefits of more relevant ads and more personalized websites in exchange for letting marketers track their interests." Read more