Open Standard Content Cookies: Utility vs. Privacy

Chad Childers
Ford Motor Company

Iain O'Cain
Intranet Org

Linda Bangert
The Internet Education Group

Mike O'Connor
Silicon Graphics, Inc.

There is an increasing requirement to retrieve more data on individual Web users for delivery of user-sensitive pages and acquiring marketing information. Open Standard Content Cookies allow content negotiation by embedding personal profile information in a request.

How do we deliver tailored content to users while protecting their privacy? The Open Profiling Standard [1] is geared toward gathering marketing demographics, while information on an individual user is encrypted. A central clearinghouse can then provide a demographic report back to content providers, without compromising the user. Giving users granular control of what a site knows about them will head off even more abuse. Profiling oriented towards interests and education, such as Geek Codes [2], can enable site managers to better target their products, while not exposing personal information such as address/ZIP, which is still state of the art for advertisers and online services.

OSCC is an enabling technology for even more personalized websites and a better return on investment, however, electronic privacy advocates have immediate and valid concerns which make implementation challenging. Technologies like DoubleClick have already shown the potential for abuse [3]. OSCC was envisioned as a way of providing profiling information without unduly compromising privacy. We need to continue work on this topic, or market forces like CyberPromo [4] will drive a solution for us as we deliver more tailored content via the Web.

[1] Netscape/Verisign Open Profiling Standard at
[2] The Geek Code at
[3] Cookie security risks at
[4] CyberPromo "Spam Iz Gud" at

creation: 22 Feb 97
last update:14 Aug 97