Following our previous post on the “right to be forgotten” on the internet, the issue of internet cookies is worthy of consideration.
An internet cookie, sadly, is not a new method of morning tea delivery. Cookies are small files stored on a computer or other internet-enabled device which enable websites and other services to store information on that device. This is often used for beneficial purposes, e.g. it means that Facebook can detect that you’re already logged in on that computer and you don’t need to sign in every time you re-open your browser.
However, cookies are often used, and have gained a poor reputation as a result, for tracking user activities for the purposes of marketing and monitoring user behaviour. This is often combined with other methods of user tracking and website analytics to enable targeted marketing across websites. If you have ever gone internet shopping for a product or service and then seen ads for that product on another website, odds are that cookies are involved in tracking your browsing history somewhere along the line.
Of course, these decisions are not directly relevant to companies based primarily or solely in Australia. However, with the new Australian Privacy Principles introduced this year and a reinvigorated Office of the Australian Information Commissioner with significantly increased powers to enforce penalties for breaches, and a general public push for greater privacy and right to control of personal information, seeing similar actions in Australia under the Privacy Act remains a definite possibility for the future. Discretion, in this case, likely remains the better part of valour.