ClickZ's Rob McGann found a connection between the commercial efforts of some "anti-spyware" software makers and the high rate of cookie deletion that some are finding. A recent Jupiter Research survey indicated that as many as 40 percent of people regularly delete the tracking cookies that advertisers and researchers regularly use to measure ad exposure. [Editor's Note: Several other companies that have data on cookie deletion, including major research firms, have told MarketingVOX that these figures are exaggerated, although they declined to provide their own data.] The competitive frenzy among anti-spyware software companies has been leading software offerings to be more and more belligerent about what is a friendly piece of software and what is a foe. Once one of the firms starts touting its ability to delete DoubleClick, AtlasDMT and Websidestory cookies, it is hard for the others to not to jump in and add them to the list as well.
The cookie deletion issue has been a major - if somewhat hushed - discussion in industry circles, with firms worried about the potential for tracking inaccuracies. An interesting analysis of the issue was written up by well-known media buyer Tom Hespos earlier this week.
While some of the anti-spyware efforts were designed for users to increase their computers' usability, others have been designed as anti-commercial tools to pursue an ideology that is, at heart, against advertising in any form. Individuals at wits end as to how to remove real spyware from their computers haven't been making such fine distinctions. McGann's piece showed that one anti-spyware software system maker - NoAdware - claimed to put cookies in a "non-critical" threat list, but showed users instead a list of cookies labeled as "infected files," inviting users to "clean" them from their hard drives.