Hey there. I'm glad you're enjoying those cookies

Published 08 Jul 2021

By Kento Seki

This piece is intentionally satirical and does not reflect the views or nature of DataSoc.

Dear Internet User,

On behalf of all internet corporates, I thank you for the eagerness with which you have accepted our browser cookies into your life. Since the conception of the “cookie” in 1994, what has resulted is a beautiful partnership that ties us – marketers and consumers – closer than ever before. Today, I wish to acknowledge the role you have played in this wildly enabling relationship.

The foremost thing to reflect upon is your openness in allowing us corporations to get to know you. The irony baffles me; that we poured voluminous thought into making our terms and conditions legally compliant yet seemingly unobtrusive only to find you would not bother to read them. We worried that consumers like yourself would be anxious to have data about your demographics, relationships, and habits used to boost sales. What a delightful miscalculation. We are incredibly fortunate to get to know you so intimately, and none of it would be possible without your openness to share with us.

Thanks to your enthusiasm for cookies, we are glad to report that our capabilities in targeted marketing have steadily enhanced. The business implications are nothing short of astounding. Allow me to share a couple of my favourites.

First is price discrimination exercised by my colleagues in the airline industry. Indeed, we were taught in high school that this is largely impractical because we lack the means to determine how much individual consumers are willing to pay for a particular product. What may surprise you is that cookies, by recording the way you interact with websites, allow airlines to extract a price closer to your willingness to pay. For instance, if you repeatedly search for a flight departing at a particular date and time, the airline will deduce that your departure plans must be inflexible. Next time you search for that flight, you will likely find that the price offered to you is higher than what a new user would be offered.

I am sure you can appreciate the beauty of this remarkably simple mechanism; its potential for profit generation is limitless. Moreover, the process of price discrimination is perfectly legal.

Another use of our cookies has resulted in a rather amusing development: paranoid users arguing for the notion that we “listen” to them through their devices. We trust that you say such things knowingly as a joke. After all, we have superior means for data collection as anyone who read our privacy policies would know. The data we collect through cookies are much cheaper to analyse and allow us to develop a more-than-adequately detailed map of your life. It would be an enormous blunder to expend in complex audio analysis when you offer us easy data with every click every day.

If ever you happen to encounter an uneducated user naïve enough to think that our means of data collection is to listen to their conversations, please, do us a favour and explain to them as follows. Pop-up advertisements for things they have never searched appear not because we are eavesdropping, but because their social networks and the shopping habits of the people they interact with are taken into consideration. As this privacy technology worker thankfully understands, an advertisement for toothpaste you never searched for may repeatedly appear because your mother is a frequent buyer of that particular toothpaste, and we deduced that you live with her given the prolonged proximity of your location data. Of course, we know for sure your mother is a close associate of yours given the interactions you have on social media and the regularity with which social media companies share such data with businesses like us. If the toothpaste happened to come up in conversation, that was the coincidence.

Such elegant solutions to our marketing challenges do not arise from nothing. They both started with the humble cookie and are fuelled, to this day, by your faithful cooperation.

In light of this, we thank you for getting us here. We now live in an age where the threat of those who are against cookies is nullified by the fact that a world free from cookies is simply out of reach. Why so? The simple realities you take for granted, many of which are made possible by cookies, would be totally upturned – login details would be required for every page within a website without cookies to store your credentials; social media would need paid subscription models to generate revenue without cookies to fuel their targeted advertisements; and your online shopping cart could never be saved while browsing items without cookies to store the data locally. As the beneficiary of such a seamless user experience, once must accept that data collection is the price they pay.

Of course, we know this is a decision you have already made. Here’s to you, loyal friend, for your enthusiastic cooperation. Our cookies are here to stay, so we are glad to see you enjoying them.

Tags: Data Science Applications of Data Science