Friday, 01 April, 2005

Cookie crumbles

Since I started using Firefox, I've been very careful about which cookies I allow my browser to save.  I also delete all cookies on a regular basis, just to clean up any unwanted crumbs.  I've noticed recently, mostly because I've been doing more Web browsing recently, that all too many sites misuse cookies.  A lot of blog sites, for example, have advertising banners that want to save cookies.  Others want to save cookies for reasons that I don't quite understand.  Maybe they want to keep a more accurate count of repeat visitors.  Whatever the case, I almost always refuse cookies from blog sites and sites from which I just want to read some information.

I'm not completely opposed to cookies.  Session cookies, for example, are great.  Sites can keep track of my progress through their pages, showing me special offers just once or otherwise customizing my browsing experience.  But once the session is over and I close my browser, the cookie is gone.  I like session cookies, and I've instructed Firefox to accept them unconditionally.

I turn down site cookies unless they are for a site from which I'm ordering something.  I figure that if I can trust a company with my name and credit card number, I can trust their cookie on my system temporarily.  Besides, I regularly delete all cookies, so I don't worry too much.  I detest and will not accept tracking cookies, though, even if failing to accept them prevents me from viewing some site's information.  I know that I could just delete all cookies after leaving the site, but I choose not to encourage the use of tracking cookies.  I hope that whoever operates those sites gets a report on the number of people who refuse cookies, and that the number is sufficiently high to induce a change of heart.  Cookies are supposed to be for my convenience, not for the sites' marketing convenience.

Web site operators, please review your cookie policies and stop using tracking cookies.  Bloggers, especially, stop subscribing to advertising services that store cookies, and stop saving cookies yourself unless it's for login purposes.  There are plenty of advertising services that don't use cookies, and there's no good reason I can see for any site to store a cookie unless it's for an ongoing customer who has logged in.  Other than session cookies, cookies should only be stored at the user's request.