CookieLaw Blog November 22, 2011

Good to Know about Google

You may have noticed recently that Google have been very actively promoting the benefits of web personalisation via cookies.  On November 21 they had three full pages in the Evening Standard, and similar ads have appeared in the Financial Times and I assume elsewhere as well.  They have even got the Citizens Advice Bureau to endorse their efforts.

These ads all point towards a website called Good to Know – which is a very good general information piece about how the web works and how cookies are used to personalise your web experience – including a very informative video

I like the fact that Google is doing this – but they could so easily have gone further.  They talk about how they use cookies to improve their understanding of search queries.  They also talk about behavioural advertising cookies.

However, what would have been really useful would be to provide an actual list of their cookies, and an explanation of what they are used for.  This ought to have been the perfect location to do this – if they were wanting to be truly transparent. 

Okay, a lot of people would not be interested in this information – but a lot of others would.  Especially website owners looking to prepare their website for cookie law compliance.  The truth is that trying to find out what cookies on your website actually do – so you can tell your visitors, can be difficult.  This is doubly difficult when your site is serving up third party cookies that you are not yourself responsible for.  Yet this is exactly what the law demands.

They could also be accused of being economical with the truth about their cookies.  During the video the presenter makes this statement about cookies:

“A cookie ID is usually just a combination of numbers and letters.  Most of the time there is not personally identifiable information in a cookie file.  No name, email address or phone number.”

This is generally a true statement, but the qualifier here ‘most of the time’ is a major clue.  There are in fact several different Google cookies in my browser that store my Gmail address.

So come on Google – how about really opening up, listing your cookies and telling us what you use them for?

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