Just as the industry begins to make strides to address misplaced concerns around targeted advertising, in steps the flash cookie and the practice of re-spawning. As seen in yesterday’s WIRED piece http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2010/08/specificmedia-zombie-cookie/, an ad network is getting hit with lawsuits for the practice (and if true, they deserve the lawsuits). Users should be able to control and opt-out of cookies if they so choose – and this needs to be sacrosanct. We joined the NAI recently, and this practice is against their policy – members should be thrown out for using flash cookies. In short, companies practicing this kind of re-spawning – secretly reinstating cookies once a user has purposefully deleted them – is wrong from a privacy perspective, and gives the vast majority of companies who do value transparency and user control a bad name.
So how do we rectify? Aside from lawsuits and general name calling, a good first step would be for the industry to unite and create a list of online companies who publicly pledge not to use flash cookies to re-spawn user cookies. This would create a public place where advertisers, publishers, and users can check if a company they are interacting with or doing business with has pledged to do things the right way. Bizo volunteers to be the first name on that list.