Home LATEST NEWS HIGH TECH The inventor of “cookies” pleads for their supervision on the Web

The inventor of “cookies” pleads for their supervision on the Web


Entrepreneur Lou Montulli explains that the cookies he created in 1994 when he was an engineer for Netscape were designed with the idea of ​​making the Internet work easier by allowing sites to memorize visits.

My invention is at the center of online advertising strategies, but that was not the goal, he pleads. It’s just a core technology that makes the web work. »

A quote from Lou Montulli, engineer

Browser cookies are files through which a site can recognize a specific browser. They make possible operations such as the automatic opening of sessions, the publication of comments or the addition of articles in an online shopping cart, according to Mr. Montulli.

Without so-called internal cookies (first party cookies“,”text”:”first-party cookies”}}”>first party cookiesin English), used by the sites to interact with Internet users and memorize certain data, each visit would be considered the first.

Third-party cookies in the line of fire

For Mr. Montulli, the real culprits are the third-party witnesses (third party cookies“,”text”:”third-party cookies”}}”>third party cookies), created by external sites and integrated into browsers and advertising agencies on the Internet.

It is only thanks to the collusion between many sites and an advertising network that targeted advertising is possiblehe explains.

The sites share data on the habits and preferences of Internet users with advertising agencies, which then use them for targeting.

If you do a search for a weird niche product and find yourself bombarded with ads for that product on different sites, that’s a weird experience. »

A quote from Lou Montulli, engineer

It is natural to think that if people know that I am looking for blue suede shoes, that must mean that they know everything about me, and therefore want to get out of this system.he mentions.

If a site collects personal information, such as a name or an email address, it is possible that this data will leak and that a browser will be associated with a person.

It’s a network effect where all these different sites are in cahoots with ad trackers.summarizes Mr. Montulli.

Like other tech groups, Google, which derives most of its revenue from advertising, introduced a new plan this week to block third-party browser cookies.

Salty fine in France

An announcement made shortly after a fine of 150 million euros (220 million Canadian dollars) imposed by the CNIL, guardian of privacy in France, to Google, for its policy on cookies. Facebook, for its part, was fined 60 million euros (85.2 million Canadian dollars).

Mr. Montulli would like to point out that many free services on the Internet, such as a Google search, are actually paid for by online advertising.

A hand holds a cell phone that displays a fingerprint, in front of several Google logos.

Cookies are strictly regulated in Europe.

Photo: Getty Images/Leon Neal

One option would be to discontinue ad targeting and replace it with paid subscriptions.

The inventor has nothing against the phasing out of third-party cookies, but warns that a total elimination of these files would lead advertisers to resort to more devious strategies.

Advertising will find a solution. It will become a technology arms race given the billions of dollars at stake, and the advertising industry will do what is necessary to keep the ship afloat. »

A quote from Lou Montulli, engineer

Deleting third-party cookies, and therefore targeted advertising, could also penalize the most modest sites by depriving them of their main source of income while strengthening giants like Apple, Google and Meta, the parent company of Facebook.

For Mr. Montulli, the only viable long-term solution is probably a regulation that would maintain cookies while introducing control tools, such as the possibility to accept or refuse the sharing of data.

The Web would be really unusable without cookies, he judges. But we will have to change the way they are used by advertisers.

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