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Affilinet Channel 4 London

Channel 4's 'Richard Wilson On Hold' - I don’t believe it…

By Gary Bicker |

January 26, 2012 | 4 min read

Following last week's Channel 4 programme 'Richard Wilson: On Hold' in which the actor was seen to investigate the rise of automated services across the UK, Gary Bicker, UK Country Manager for affilinet responds, claiming the show to be 'ill informed'.

I’m not sure how many of you watched ‘Richard Wilson: On hold’ on last Monday evening, but I found the section about Cookies to be nothing short of ill informed. Instead of educating watchers about what Cookies are actually used for, Wilson instead asserted that he was being ‘spied on.’ The whole programme simply underlined concerns that, as we steel ourselves for the EU Cookie Directive being implemented in full force in May, little is being done by the media or industry bodies to educate consumers about what Cookies are.

A lack of consumer understanding about Cookies is potentially a very dangerous thing for the online industry. When a box comes up on the internet, asking you if you’d like to ‘allow’ something, the default reaction if you know nothing about it is to click ‘no.’ Without education around what Cookies are and how they work, consumers are going to believe ill researched programmes such as this weeks documentary and opt out.

Yet when they do, they may well be surprised at how such a choice negatively impacts their user journey. Few have summed it up better than Google when they printed an advert that said opting out of Cookies is like having to introduce yourself to each member of your family every time you meet them. Imagine how onerous that would be, but without retaining and storing data this is potentially the future online interaction. Whilst the media talks of ‘spying’ in actual fact the knowledge Cookies have and store about a user is limited. They can’t see if whilst browsing holidays you get up and make a cup of tea.

Cookies exist for very valid reasons, none of which the programme touched on. It was also exceptionally contradictory. Yes Cookies are used in behavioural retargeting, but they don’t ‘follow you around the internet’ in the manner was suggested. They store non personal information and they aren’t tracking an individual, they are looking at behaviour. It was very misleading to jump from the highly sensitive issue of the use of cookies in behavioural targeting to what was in essence the topic of consumers making money by purchasing through cash back sites. The documentary implied that these two topics were closely related in this context and that behavioural targeting companies would be paid hundreds of pounds for pushing adverts at a consumer; this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Far from being scared of Cookies, consumers need to know the facts and that actually it’s thanks to Cookies that we’ve seen so much innovation happen across the Internet. It is true that consumers sometimes unknowingly interact with Cookies when research for camera if they are heading off on holiday or looking for a new pair of jeans, and are then retargeted with content relating to the topic of purchase. But arguably Cookie-less tracking could be much more intrusive, not to mention irritating as potentially the ads displayed would not be relevant to you or your interests. Furthermore we’d all need to remember all our input data for every site we are subscribed to, as the ability to automatically log in would no longer be there.

With the right education, Cookies and consumers can co-exist in harmony. With May fast approaching, poorly thought out pieces in the media such as this documentary do nothing to help the ICO and the wider industry integrate the Directive in a manner that is beneficial to all.

Affilinet Channel 4 London

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