Through the use of the cookie technology, a person’s movement through the Web can be tracked to provide information. Using cookies a website assigns each individual a unique identifier (but not the actual identity), so that the he may be recognized in subsequent visits to the site. On each return visit, the site can call up user-specific information, which could include the consumer’s preferences or interests, as indicated by documents the consumer accessed in prior visits or items the consumer clicked on while in the site. Websites can also collect information about consumers through hidden electronic navigational software that captures information about site visits, including web pages visited and information downloaded, the types of browser used, and the referring websites’ Internet addresses. The result is that a website about gardening that Jane Doe that could sell not only her name to mail-order companies, but also the fact that she spent a lot of time one Saturday night last month reading about how to fertilize roses.
More disturbing scenarios along the same lines could be imagined. However, although concern about privacy and security has long been the biggest issue with online shoppersparticularly with the sanctity of their identification-related informationa majority do not mind their behavior being watched if it allows their shopping experience to be customized. According to the 1999 Personalized Marketing and Privacy on the Net: What Consumers Want survey conducted by the non-profit research firm Privacy and American Business, 61 percent of the 474 Internet users surveyed said that they would be positive toward receiving banner ads tailored to their personal interests rather than receiving random ads. This represents about 56 million adult users interested in such personalization.
. . It also criticized the industry’s voluntary guidelines, stating that with limited exception, contain none of the enforcement mechanisms needed for an effective self-regulatory .