A big focus of new web browsers coming out is increased privacy settings for consumers. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8, still in beta but widely available, offers an InPrivate Browsing option where the browser doesn’t store any cookies, temporary files, or user information. Google offers a similar Incognito setting in its new Chrome browser. There are other browsers such as Ixquick that allow for private searching, and while Firefox 3 doesn’t have a standard privacy mode, there are plug-ins that achieve the same result.
With all of this, should advertisers and publishers be concerned? Generally, no.
First, the privacy settings must be enabled rather than disabled. The standard option stores cookies, and that should be the setting for most internet usage.
Secondly, these privacy modes should appeal to consumers who already delete cookies. These users have been able to delete cookies for years through standard Internet Explorer and Firefox settings; the difference is now they’ll get to do it proactively. If a user deleted cookies through the browser they would have deleted everything. Now, some users may actually wind up only turning on the privacy settings at certain times and then will return to normal browsing. That could wind up leading to fewer cookies getting deleted or blocked.
Lastly, while Microsoft and Google both use examples of someone turning on privacy settings when shopping for gifts for their spouse, realistically these settings are nicknamed “porn mode” for good reason. At this point, few brand-name marketers and publishers should worry about the impact on ad targeting while consumers are engaging in such activities.
We’ll continually monitor this issue and will post updates as more information comes out.