Study Reveals Less Than 1 Percent of Web Users Reject Cookies

A recent study by WebSideStory Inc. and its HitBox Enterprises Inc. division found that less than 1 percent of Web surfers reject cookies.

WebSideStory, San Diego, provides Internet site audience analysis services. In a survey conducted in February of more than 1 billion page views sampled from the 50 most-visited Web sites in its HitBox Enterprise network, cookies were rejected only 0.68 percent of the time, the company said. HitBox Enterprise, a Web audience analysis service geared toward high-volume Web sites, boasts more than 150,000 sites in its network.

Cookies are routinely used by ad networks and advertisers to track users’ movements on the Web as an aid in ad targeting.

The public debate over privacy prompted the company to undertake the study, said Randy Broberg, WebSideStory’s general counsel and chief privacy officer.

“Although some Web surfers may not know how to disable cookies in their browsers, such a minute percentage indicates that cookies are simply not a big concern among most Internet users,” he said.

However, WebSideStory’s findings are at odds with a study released last summer by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. That study found that 84 percent of Internet users in the United States were concerned that businesses and others were getting their personal data while they surfed the Web. More than half of the respondents, 56 percent, said they did not know about cookies and how they were used. About 10 percent said they actively blocked cookies from computers, according to the study.

Meanwhile, a recent court ruling in DoubleClick Inc.’s favor suggests that the use of cookies is acceptable and does not constitute an invasion of an individual’s privacy.

Last month, a federal judge in New York dismissed a class action lawsuit against DoubleClick Inc., ruling that the ad serving network was not engaging in an invasion of privacy by placing cookies on a computer user’s hard drive. Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, said the company was not engaged in the “secret collection of private and personal data” from Internet users.

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