Companies Must Declare Cookie Status Online, Says Law Instructor

Companies Must Declare Cookie Status Online, Says Law Instructor

An instructor in the School of Law, Usman Habib, says companies that fail to provide clear and comprehensive information should be fined to deter others from following suit.

He observed that many companies do not display whether or not they have cookies in their website information.

Habib made these assertions in a paper on “Cookies: a Tool for Optimizing Web Experience or an Affront to the Right of Privacy?” which he presented at the School of Law seminar held on March 15.

Mr. Habib explained the term “cookie” to mean ‘a small text file that is placed on a website user’s web browser without any direct visibility and is executed without the user’s interaction’.

In his words, “Cookies are used to recognize, track, and trace web user’s activity. They allow content providers to remember preferences of web users such as language settings.”

The law professor said there are different types of tracking and tracing techniques, including the required cookies, functional cookies, and performance cookies. His presentation dwelled largely on interaction cookies which are also known as analytical cookies.

He illustrated with the “Like” buttons that are commonly found on Facebook.  He said the like button can function as an important business tool that attracts more visitors to a website.

He said such social plugins add value to the website experience since it attracts visitors to the website.

“It is either luring you to read an article or have a look at a product.”

He argued that the art of collecting data about individuals’ web behaviors is a counter-productive measure in the online world. He said that monitoring the behavior of web users through tracking and tracing their activities is valuable for profiling and marketing purposes because based on identified and established interests, web users can be targeted for personalized advertisements.

His concern, however, is that it interferes with the right to users’ privacy, especially as many people are often unaware that their information is being mined from the activity.

“It affects the way businesses promote their goods and services, and how individuals are able to construct their own identities.”

Habib acquired his postgraduate degree  in Law and Technology from Tilburg University in the Netherlands. After graduation, he served pro-bono as legal adviser in many organizations. He joined AUN in August 2017.

 

Reported by Omorogbe Omorogiuwa