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What A Concept!

Imagine having to be asked, and having to agree to a web site tagging you with a cookie? Well, the BBC tells me that it is the law in the UK – Cookie law: websites must seek consent from this weekend.

Apparently it only applies to new visitors to the UK web sites, and there is no mention of how exactly they are going to know who is a new visitor without a massive data base unless they just assume that anyone without their ‘cookie’ is a new visitor.

Cookies do serve a useful purpose in a lot of ways, but they have been transformed from a tool to a ‘weapon’ by marketing people. There has been a lot of that over the years – useful features transformed into annoying obstacles.

Expect some odd experiences when you visit the UK sites in the next few days [weeks … months?] as they implement this law. If they use a ‘pop-up’ to ask for permission, what happens if you block ‘pop-ups’? No one knows at this point.


1 Badtux { 05.26.12 at 11:16 am }

You do know that you’re in violation of the UK law, right? Or at least you would be if you sold stuff in the UK and thus had a UK presence. Because WordPress keeps a cookie around to populate that name/email/website stuff in the comment form.

Which is why this law is sort of overkill, IMHO. If I didn’t want you to keep a cookie in my browser, I’d use the private browsing feature and the cookie would go away when I closed the session. The annoying part of marketing is those web sites that require you to log in to use them and thus track you by your user ID, not the web sites that set cookies, since those web sites are easy enough to deal with by hitting the flush button on your cookie jar (either explicitly or via “private browsing”).

Which, BTW, is my current beef with Red Hat Software. To get the demo of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, you must register with a corporate email address. They will no longer accept a personal email address. Well, here’s the problem — my job requires me to evaluate things like this, but I have no purchasing authority, so marketing people calling me trying to sell me stuff for my business just annoys me. So I put the phone number of the San Jose Police and a throw-away email address on one of my own .com domains to download the eval (I was eval’ing the clustered virtualization part of their software as a possible alternative to ESXi, which doesn’t come with CentOS because it’s proprietary to Red Hat). And run CentOS on the engineering IT infrastructure that I administer, because clearly all that Red Hat has to offer me at this point is annoyance with inappropriate marketing calls. Sad, that a company once so geek-friendly is now so geek-hostile, even more hostile than VMware, which at least still gives out free demos with just a hotmail.com email address.

2 Bryan { 05.26.12 at 12:06 pm }

Oh, yes, cookies are essential to some things, like on-line shopping. The whole ‘shopping cart’ would be massive PITA without session cookies. My Phone Company bill paying is totally without cookies and blocks ‘form filling’ by Firefox, so you have to type in everything every time, but you don’t have to worry about the stuff being stored.

I dump cookies every time I shut down the browser. It’s a little more work, but I got tired of seeing the last thing I looked at for my Mother showing up at about 70% of the sites I visit. It’s bad enough having to buy an Engelbert Humperdinck Christmas CD without being reminded of it at blogs with ads.

You would think that Red Hat would have learned that almost no one qualified to evaluate software ever has purchase authority in a corporate environment, and bugging the people who do eval software is a loser, but it isn’t unusual for tech companies not to understand the corporate environment.

My main and permanent e-mail address is maintained by my brother, and his hosting company outsources e-mail to someone else, so I often get told that my e-mail address isn’t valid because one of the common checks for validity doesn’t account for a separate e-mail host.

Tracking cookies are the problem, but the people writing laws don’t know enough about the system to identify them, and do something about them without affecting the other uses of cookies.

3 Badtux { 05.27.12 at 10:52 am }

The email address thing is a PITA, for sure. That’s the problem with using one of my throwaway domains, the outgoing email server still proudly announces it’s my main domain and there’s a lot of spam filters that’ll say “nuh-uh, bad relay.” Luckily most of these “sign up so we can spam you!” marketing sites just want to *send* you email, and I’m quite happy to accept it — and trash it once I’ve responded to the “activate this email address” message :).

4 Bryan { 05.27.12 at 4:21 pm }

Filters are easy enough to set up in Pegasus, so I let them take care of it which means I normally see a half dozen messages in by in-box and dozens in my junk folder that are erased as soon as I shut it down.