Precise analysis about The legal or illegal utilization of Internet cookies

Increasingly, dependencies to the Internet and online shopping are being placed among People. Every wise business man can quickly realize this opportunity and its profitable commercial potential. According to Gilbert (cited in Palmer 2005, paras 2-3), in recent years, Internet sales have grown incredibly, by 2002, 67 million American were buying their goods via internet. Beside this potential place for businesses, marketers are always like to identify and track highly active customers. By growing the importance of commerce in the Internet, some of annoying marketing techniques such as cookies and spamming has been rapidly grown among marketers which are problem for most Internet users. It is clear that the most important thing in Internet for every user is privacy. These years, Cookies (not edible or delicious one), has been a controversial debate among users in case of Internet privacy threat.

Despite apparent disaffection of Internet users about cookies it is still firmly used by most marketers. The problem is there is not any firm legislation and clear explanation about cookies. As Swartz argues (cited in Palmer 2005, paras 2-3), recent high level of attempts to perform legislation about cookies performance, show public sense of concerns among Internet users about Electronic Commerce new techniques. It must be completely clear for every user that how and when their information are used by marketers and most important thing is what kind of information do usually marketers use for their business profits.

However, it have been done a lot of research about cookies and also most of Internet users have at least primary knowledge about Internet cookies but most users do not know about cookies threat and also they even do not know how can they completely block or delete the cookies. On the other hand it is possible to find many users who already know about cookies threat but they usually do not care about it because they think maybe it cannot be a serious danger or risk for their privacy.

This paper firstly aims to argue precisely about various points of view about cookies and secondly intends to examine and debate concerning Internet users’ idea, way of thinking, their likely requests and also their level of awareness about cookies.

Literature review

While electronic commerce has grown rapidly in recent years, most of marketing-website owners are trying to raise their awareness about customer convenience and behavior. It is obvious that if marketers have adequate information about their consumers such as preferred goods and some data about their identity, it can help them to promote their business and also help them to maintain their customers. By and large, online marketers use cookies to fulfill this ambition.

According to New Perspectives on E-commerce, websites usually use cookies to remember the customer order information, username and password because the Internet is a stateless machine and it is impossible to remember a response from one webpage view to another (Schneider 2002, p. EC 4.05). As Palmer (2005, p. 273) mentions, when Internet users are browsing web sites, cookies can enter their computer. Such cookies record lots of data about the user that is regained in future by the site that placed them on the user’s computer. In this regard, Bennett even notices that “cookie technology might be the tracking device of the past” (cited in Palmer 2005, Paras 3). Synthesizing their ideas, I reach a conclusion that use of cookies involves the capability of electronic commerce to enter the user’s computer and get data about them in ways that are usually not transparent for them to control. In recent years it also has raised concerns in internet users about their privacy (Palmer 2005, p. 271).

As stated by Lin and Loui (1998, p. 47), some uses of cookies are morally allowed and cannot be a serious threat for users while it can also uses in immoral ways such as misuse of their home address or credit card number . There idea about cookies can be sufficient warning for users to be careful about cookies and its likely threats. Their idea would also be beneficial to come up with a controversial research question (two points of view, negative and positive about cookies) for my research paper and also my questionnaire. Firstly this research paper will look over some previous research done by authors who have negative outlook about this subject.

As Berteau (2007, para. 2) argues, tracking cookies can pose a threat to privacy as they allow tracking customers’ behavior in a way which is invisible to most users. If cookies use users’ personal information (such as credit card number and home address) then it can be a kind of threat for Internet users and especially for customers. Mason (2006, para. 4) reached similar conclusion on cookies danger. He argues that cookies as a hidden identifier and similar devices can enter the users’ computers without their awareness with the purpose of obtaining their data to supply personal information or trace the activities of the users and it can be a kind of intrusion and a serious threat to their privacy.

He also explains the use of this kind of device and cookies should be permitted only for a legal purpose, with the permission and agreement of the users. By considering Mason’s idea about cookies it seems that cookies can easily be used in an illegal way by websites such as misuse of credit card number and home address. In the same regard, It is suggested by Schneider (2002, p. EC 4.05) that cookies are a serious privacy threat because they usually contain precise data such as users’ address, name and credit card number.

So far it has been discussed about cookies’ threats and their probable dangers. However, in spite of these negative points of view about cookies, there are many positive standpoints referring to cookies. As Freedman (2005, p.1) asserts, “Cookies are a misunderstood computer tool”.

Freedman (2005, p.1) argues, during visiting a site, a cookie stores data supplied by user, and the site retrieves it later. Schneider (2002, p. EC 4.05) reached a same upshot on cookies advantages. He explains that cookies include particular information about users so there is no need for users to log in with their username and password for second time because the website can use the previous users’ information via cookies stored on computer. Even it is said by Scott (n.d., para. 4) that “Cookies? I do not think they are great, I think they are fabulous”. In connection with the points previously mentioned, it seems that cookies can also be useful for commercial interactions on the Internet. It is also suggested by Freedman (2005, p. 1) that without the use of cookies it is impossible for websites to distinguish someone who has just arrived from someone who has spent much time on the site.

In spite of the fact that cookies can be advantageous for users, there are many unanswered questions for this research paper and also for internet users. Recent ideas seem reasonable that cookies can also be used in ethical ways for users’ profit but if cookies are not a serious threat for internet users, why are all of cookies interactions implemented without users’ awareness? According to Palmer (2005, p. 277), with these new methods used by marketers, it is easier to control everything from the viewpoint of the business and less easier to control from the viewpoint of consumers. Most browsers are able to completely block the cookies and it is also possible for users to delete cookies every now and then. If cookies are not dangerous, why are browsers equipped with these abilities?

To evaluate, it is beneficial to compare these ideas about cookies but due to the difficulty of reaching a certain conclusion about which idea is reliable. This project aims to examine firstly users’ ideas, their likely dissatisfaction and how much familiarity they have about cookies. Secondly obtain more data about the marketers’ reason for using cookies by doing a survey on them.

Methodology

To examine the effect of cookies on peoples’ Internet experience and also level of their awareness about it and its likely privacy threats, 100 questionnaires comprised of many comprehensive questions about cookies were sent via email. Most of the participants were typical Internet users plus few expert Internet users who have good information about privacy in Internet. Although 78 questionnaires were sent, only 12 Internet users (15.3%) replied to questions.

Secondly, another email questionnaire were sent to 18 Internet marketers with the aim of getting more information about their purpose of using cookies but just 5 questionnaires (25%) were replied back by them. These surveys were conducted between 15 to 25th July 2007. It is also necessary to mention that all of respondents are male. Four of them are between 20 to 40 years old and eight of them are between 40 to 60 years old.

The people, whom the questionnaires were sent to, were not randomly selected. It was tried to choose respondents from all over the world (United State of America, Australia, Iran, China, Turkey, Canada) to find extensive data from various peoples’ outlook. The main purpose is to put two different points of view about cookies because most marketers seriously support cookies but most Internet users have many concerns about cookies. In terms of analyzing the data, this research use tables to exhibit the statistics and also discuss over comparative information.