Who Owns User Data Stored in Cookies?

mediabistrosxsw.gifDuring Friday’s panel, Smackdown: Consumer Privacy vs. Advertiser Revenue, panelist Jordan Mitchell was asked who owns data collected in cookies. Towing the industry line, Mitchell responded, “The user, obviously. But you don’t know what it’s tied to in some back-end database. Users should have total control over that and legitimate companies agree with that.”

The problem that the panel keeps coming back to is unscrupulous marketers that don’t disclose how they use your data, where and how it is stored, and whether or not they’re selling it to third and fourth parties. The issue is being discussed on a Federal level but as panelist Jay Habegger notes, “Marketers that behave badly with privacy probably won’t follow Federal regulations.” And that serves to tarnish those companies that are acting under the law.

Of course there are larger companies wrapped into this issue as well, like Google. One of the more interesting cases revolves around the White House’s use of embedded video on their site (which began last year) and the problem it caused for some users. ie their data was made public to Google, somewhat unwittingly. As CNET reported, the administration fixed the problem &#151 but if even Google and the White House are having issues, imagine the thousands of lesser known entities facing the same. Without a looking glass trained on them, the aforementioned “unscrupulous” marketers may not feel pressure to conform.

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