The Spectacle Blog

That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles

By on 4.29.08 | 3:07PM

Peter Swire of the Center for American Progress is urging Congress to enact technical measures that enable users to opt out of online cookies-typically invisible and unobtrusive digital trackers which send information about a user's behavior back to their hosts. This isn't a new thing for Swire; previously, he's complained that current technologies used to block tracking cookies are too difficult. But what's worth noting here is the Center for American Progress's own policy on cookies:

The Center for American Progress Action Fund may use session cookies to enhance the experience of users. A session cookie expires when a user closes the browser in which the Center for American Progress Action Fund's website was viewed. As with all cookies, users can personalize their browser settings to reject session cookies.

In other words, CAP uses cookies to track user behavior and provides no way to opt out other than what a user's browser currently allows. Nor does CAP go out of its way to warn users of its cookies policy; the text above is located on the privacy policy page, the link to which is in small print stuffed at the bottom of their page design.

Now, it's true that CAP is not using these cookies to deliver advertising, the main focus of Swire's concern, but the fact that CAP employs cookies to "enhance the experience of users" at all-and without much in the way of notice-suggests that cookies can and do provide users with real value, and that most web surfers would probably be just fine without noisy, invasive warnings about their presence. Meanwhile, it seems a largely frivolous thing for the federal government to concern itself with: Users who're particularly concerned about their online privacy will either take security precautions on their own or simply avoid the net altogether.

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