Atlas Backtracks on Cookie Data

NEW YORK Just a week after casting doubt on research showing users deleting Internet-tracking cookies, aQuantive’s Atlas research unit revised its findings, concurring that cookie deletion is a problem.

In a report released last week, Atlas said it found a significant gap between users’ self-reported cookie deletions and the actual cookie lifespan on their computers. Like surveys done by Jupiter Research and Nielsen//NetRatings, Atlas found 43 percent of respondents said they deleted cookies weekly. Instead of an average cookie lifespan of seven days, however, it was 45 days for those users. Similarly, the 14 percent who said they erased cookies monthly had cookies lasting an average of 59 days, rather than 30 days.

Now, however, Atlas said the gap between reported cookie erasing and actual deletion is not that wide. For instance, of the 43 percent who said they deleted cookies weekly, 60 percent actually did. Of the 54 percent who said they deleted on a monthly basis, 68 percent did so. The end result of the revised figures paints a bleak picture for the third-party cookies Atlas studied: 31 percent of consumers deleted them weekly, 48 percent monthly and 8 percent did not allow cookies to be set.

“I’m less afraid of the people who flush out their cookies periodically,” said Young-Bean Song, director of analytics at Atlas. “It’s the people who are rejecting cookies outright.”

Internet tracking cookies are vital to online advertising, used by publishers, advertisers and agencies to measure and target advertising. Popular spyware-removal software lump tracking cookies with spyware programs tabbed for removal.

“It doesn’t mean the Internet is broken,” said Eric Peterson, a Jupiter Research analyst. “It means we have to look at this and adjust our expectations and move forward.”