SXSW 2017: “Cozy with Cookies: Our Brain and Behavioral Targeting” panel

Cookies are crumbs of information that we leave behind on the internet. According to a study published in the JCR, Oxford University Press, behavioral targeting can affect our sense of worth. Cookies act like comfort food for our brain. We can have a cozy relationship with our cookies in our little bubbles inside the Internet.

Photo by ChinLin Pan

But does that trap us inside our comfort zones? Is our world view getting distorted by personalization and the death of discovery? Are cookies creating echo chambers in our democracy? When does cozy become creepy? Find out the answers with our expert panel. Archana Iyer of MullenLowe Group moderates the panel for speakers Supriya Gokarn of Google, Jennifer Golbeck of University of Maryland, Chris Summers of University of South Carolina.

This particular case involved Target mailing coupons for pregnancy items to a teenage girl at her house. Based on her purchase transaction data, Target identified that she was in fact pregnant.

But this type of behavior tracking goes beyond in-store purchases. It’s everywhere from your browsers to your social media accounts to your phones.

Ms. Gokarn, you’re scaring us right now. *Insert surprised emoji here*

The process of how these cookies work is simple: they track your web behavior from the beginning of browsing to even… when you receive a coupon. Either in the mail or through an ad that you click. Summers states that some consumers are not aware at first, though.

Golbeck shares a hilarious anecdote involving an Amazon purchase.

However, it’s important to note that this creates a sort of bubble around people on their browsers, especially when it comes to current events and political news. Golbeck urges that social media and web media outlets should address this problem.

“So when does ‘cozy’ become ‘creepy’ in advertising and marketing?” Iyer asks the panelists. “How do brands work around this?”

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