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Esther Dyson Headshot

Release 0.9: More on Cookie Crumbles Video Contest

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Well, the contest is now in swing, and you can read all about it here and here.

Folks! We need videos! Please go to People don't understand how cookies, let alone behavioral targeting, works. So disclosure statements mean nothing to them. This contest is an attempt to change that... and to foster discussion of it outside marketing and public-interest circles. Let's get the actual participants involved and educated!

However, I do see one other mechanism for getting people informed. I was thinking about it last week when I moderated a panel for Google's Zeitgeist, with Chris Alden of SixApart, Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn and Michael Birch of Bebo. For most people, the notion of being tracked is still something abstract and unfamiliar. They may know about cookies, but they don't understand how they really work, and they certainly don't have any sense of controlling the data they generate.

But that's now changing, as users start actively contributing their own data *and* controlling who sees it. They are getting that experience vis a vis their friends, in social networks and increasingly in various "sharing" services, where you share bookmarks, recommendations or even just visibility of what you are looking at online. Examples include Me.dium and Mogad, which let users share and track their friends' online activities (what sites they visit, which ones they like, etc.) -- with specific permission, of course.

That's what's key. People who would have thought the notion of controlling their interactions with marketers was unduly complex or weird, are learning to do just that with their friends. Over time, that habit will make them more comfortable doing the same with marketers. To some extent, the purpose of this "cookie contest" is to give users the understanding and knowledge to start doing so.

The challenge to marketers, of course, is to be as transparent and visible as everyone's *non*-commercial friends on the social networks, and to understand that friendship and transparency are two-way.