The information yielded from "cookies," a tiny piece of code placed on a computer's hard drive, has changed the way online advertising reaches consumers by making it more personal and targeted, The New York Times reported Friday.
"Now, you're traveling the Internet with a cookie that indicates you're this type of consumer: age group X, income level, urban versus rural, presence of children in the household," said Trey Barrett, a product leader at Acxiom, a company that offers this link to marketers.
Advertisers and marketers say such specificity is useful because it removes the guesswork from advertising and showcases products to people deemed most likely interested in the advertised item or service.
Consumer advocates, however, say such specificity is troubling, the Times reported.
"The industry's love affair with persistent cookies has made it virtually impossible for users to go online without being tracked and profiled," Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told the newspaper.