What You Should Know about Cookies and eBay

By Marsha Collier

What do cookies have to do with your eBay account? Websites collect information about you by using cookies. No, they don’t bribe you with oatmeal-raisin goodies. Cookies are nothing more than tiny pieces of data that companies (such as eBay) put in your web browser to store data about your surfing and item-viewing habits. In a nutshell, they use this data to sell you more products and to improve the user experience.

Most web designers install cookies in the site code to help you navigate their sites. Sometimes the cookie becomes sort of an “admission ticket” so that you don’t need to register or log in every time you land on the site.

Cookies can’t steal information from other files on your computer. A cookie can access only the information that you provide to its website.

Aside from internal data scientists, eBay also has partnerships with third-party companies that provide page-view and data-tracking technology — and with advertisers who display the ads on eBay pages, whether you want to see them or not. If you click a banner, a cookie from that particular advertiser may go onto your computer, usually to prevent you from seeing it again.

The ads you see on eBay are served up by Ad Choice. If do not wish to participate in eBay’s ad-customization programs, you can opt out at the Ad Choice program page (you will have to sign in first).

Note that if you opt out, you will still see ads, but they will not be relevant to your online searches, since no data is collected.

Another example, DoubleClick Digital Marketing, a subsidiary of Google, is a major player in the cookie-tracking field. They say that it uses your information to limit the number of times that you see the same advertisement. DoubleClick also measures the kinds of ads that you respond to — and tracks which member websites you visit and how often. The bottom line is that DoubleClick is just trying to finesse how you buy stuff with ads based on your personal interests. The upside is that you get to see stuff that you may like.

These cookies, wherever they come from, target various criteria. Targeting is accomplished by using IP addresses or by reference to information about users stored within other cookies on your computer. Common information picked up by some cookies includes

  • What web browser you are using
  • Which operating system your computer uses
  • Who your Internet Service Provider is
  • Your bandwidth
  • The time of day you viewed the advertiser’s cookie

If you want to keep your browsing information private, you can get more information on how to remove yourself from the cookie system or adjust your privacy settings by going to Google.