NEW YORK, NY – June 9, 1997 – The Internet Advertising Bureau, the leading Internet advertising trade association, today announced the results of a recent survey of members on the value of Internet “cookies” technology and its potential threat to consumer privacy on the Internet. The association, which represents virtually all leading Internet media companies and many advertising agencies, said its membership stood solidly behind cookies technology which is used by web sites to track visitors and personalize content.
The design of Internet browsers such as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Netscape’s Navigator enables the software to accept cookies, which are equivalent to digital “ID tags.” Web sites use these cookies to measure individual traffic, profile visitors and target their advertising according to the user’s interests and preferences. While current browser designs allow users to block cookies upon request, The Internet Engineering Task Force recently proposed changing browsers so that they automatically reject cookies, a step that would greatly limit their use.
Importantly, the survey found that cookies are an essential part of IAB member companies’ business strategies. Cookies are important to measuring site users, developing user profiles for advertisers and to advertising targeting, the vast majority of respondents said. They also indicated that cookies are important to plans to support higher value for advertising.
Additionally, the survey found strong support for the current design of browser technology which enables consumers to “turn off” cookies on an elective basis. Nearly 85% of survey respondents opposed having the browser default set to prevent all cookies.
According to the survey, nearly 80% of IAB members said that cookies did not pose a significant “threat” to privacy on the Internet. However, half of respondents felt that consumers may perceive cookies as an invasion of privacy — which many companies described as a misperception.
“Cookies help provide audience reach information, as well as help target ads to individuals who can benefit from more relevant commercial information,” said Rich LeFurgy, chairman of the IAB and vice president of marketing and advertising, Starwave Corp. “This is a key tool to attract advertising to the Web.
“The survey indicates the need for industry and consumer education regarding this powerful new medium,” LeFurgy added. “Cookies are a means to increase the Internet’s value both to consumer and to advertisers. The industry needs to communicate this message to the public. We intend to make this a priority with the IAB.”
In another significant finding 86% of respondents said a reliable, consistent form of “digital identification” was important to increasing Internet ad revenues and improving consumer experiences on the Internet.
The IAB will host a panel discussion on cookies at its June 12, 1997 General Meeting & Conference at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco. Participants will include browser software developers and Internet privacy experts.
The IAB, founded in June of 1996, is the first organization exclusively devoted to maximizing the use and effectiveness of advertising on the Internet. Today the IAB represents 200 members including leading Internet media companies, sales rep organizations, advertising networks, online service providers, accounting/audit services, ad management organizations, ad measurement services, marketing consultants, research providers, technology providers, advertising agencies and national advertisers.
Marla Nitke IAB