Two un-related events are happening at the moment. Firstly, I have managed to bake some decent cookies. Yay! Secondly, privacy issues in social media are a hot topic these days. Cookies play a big role in this. The two types of cookies are quite un-related, but both of them share the name and have turned up in conversations with friends lately. They also can be a problem in different ways.
As a linguist, I find it terribly interesting knowing where words come from. That is, how they evolve in form and in meaning. According to culinary historians, the word cookie came into English from the Dutch koekje, meaning `little cake´. They were used to test the temperature of the oven. Can you imagine?
In computing, there are different versions of the origin of this name. Many people say that it comes from the tale of a boy who would get out of a maze following a trail of bread crumbs. Some others say that it refers back to the 1970´s Cookie Bear. Xerox programmers back in the 1970´s decided to store chunks of information on another computer. They were called `cookies´, and the action of tracing the info back to its original source was referred to as `following a trail of cookie crumbs´.
My waistline and my privacy are in danger! Horror!
My friends know that I enjoy challenges, eg, living in London. Baking anything sweet is another challenge for me. Cookies never tend to be exactly as in the lovely small bakeries that I like so much. But, I have recently managed to learn to produce some decent stuff (picture on the right) – yay! So easy and quick, that I also fancy doing that too often. Hey, salads are not that interesting…
In internet and in marketing, lack of user´s consent and security are big issues. Have you ever wondered why that freaking clothes ad appears at times? Once we click on an advert, we `place a request´ for that cookie to be sent to your own computer from the advertiser´s web server. Cookies store pieces of information in the user´s computer, such as usernames and passwords which are essential to deliver these adverts.
The main source of concern is the fact that the information stored in the cookie can be accessed by different web servers. This happens without consent nor notification. In the early days of the web, cookies were thought to make it easy when internet users wanted to access a computer or buy anything online.
Security is another problem. Basically, if any given web server can have access to our data, we are essentially exposed to viruses or identity theft. People are very concerned about this. News about Facebook owning users´ data, Google+ using personal data across their various products on searches and to deliver personalised adverts, etc. Restrictive legislation, such as SOPA do not help matters either.
I am curious as to how this matter evolves once the younger generations lose the distinction between being `online´and `offline´, as it will probably happen soon. The way technology is developing, we will always be online.
More salads? Delete cookies? I know I will not resist trying to bake cookies again often. So, I am thinking about using some sort of calendar, so that I can treat or reward myself after specific events. This is work in progress, though…
With regards to the internet, some protection is at hand. Users can disable cookies on individual machines, and many programmes can help you to manage this, eg, Cookie Crush, and browsers such as Maxa. Goverments have come up with pieces of legislation about cookies and privacy to protect users.
What are your thoughts?
Don´t let issues stop you from enjoying the internet!