You will surely encounter pop-up alerts from websites asking how you feel about cookies while you explore the internet. Not the delicious type that everyone loves, but the kind that websites have been stealthily downloading on your computer for years.
Here’s a quick rundown on cookies, the many types of pop-ups you could see, what to do if you see one, and the consequences of accepting or rejecting cookie pop-ups.
(Pro tip: Pay attention to the ‘types’ and ‘what to do.’)
What Are Cookies?
When you visit a website, it transfers data to your computer or other devices in the form of cookies. If you accept these cookies, they will be kept on your device’s web browser.
Cookies can compromise data privacy by monitoring and collecting information from your browser and relaying it to the website owner.
The most significant function of these cookies is to keep you logged in when you go from one page to another or to retain things in your cart while you continue shopping. Some cookies monitor the popularity of a site’s offerings, while others help the site and its advertisers make money.
What Are Cookies Pop-ups Used For?
You might have noticed that the emphasis on asking you to allow cookies has increased on websites and wonder what purpose these cookie pop-ups serve.
The explanation traces back to a law that controls personal data tracing and transparency and protects your privacy. The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which took effect in May 2018, is the name of this data privacy regulation.
According to the regulation, personal data can only be collected after the consent of the individuals.
Cookie pop-ups ensure that website owners have the user’s consent before using cookies and store them in the user’s browser. Thus, you have more control over your data—thanks to the cookie pop-up that notifies you that the website only collects your data if you consent.
Businesses benefit greatly from cookies since they allow for the analysis of crucial data points like user behavior and website performance. Because of this, most tracking technology used is implemented following current data privacy laws. Your data is only valuable when you give consent.
Think twice before clicking ‘Accept’
Cookies and other monitoring technologies are frequently active in the background of free websites and applications, collecting a ton of information about your online identity and activities.
Because the companies responsible for these cookies are generally unregulated, as is the way they use and disseminate the data they gather, you may discover that selecting ‘Accept’ is the only method to get rid of them.
However, there are several reasons why you should pause before clicking—including the kinds of information and its ultimate use.
You must ask yourself two crucial questions while contemplating whether or not to click the Accept button.
No. Accepting cookies is not necessary. Regulations, such as GDPR, were established to give you control over your data and surfing history.
The potential issue with rejecting cookies is that certain website owners might not let you use their websites. Some may not let you have the entire user experience which is a drawback.
You should reject cookie use to protect any private information you share such as Social Security Number (SSN) or banking details to keep it safe. These Personally Identifiable Information (PII) can enable adversaries to steal your identity—breaching data privacy regulations.
Many first-party cookies are sent out by websites to enable their features and functionalities. However, there is another type—third-party cookies.
Third-party cookies are frequently referred to as tracking cookies. Data brokers and other online marketing networks use tracking cookies to create profiles of your online activities, possibly identifying you and other anonymous users with similar characteristics.
The prevalence of third-party cookies has grown exponentially. How do you protect your data from tracking cookies?
Third-party cookies are now rather simple to prevent because the tech sector has started to turn against them. The most recent versions of Firefox and Safari already block Third-party tracking cookies by default.
You do not need to take any action to stop third-party cookies if you use the latest versions (Firefox 89+ or Safari 13.1+).
If you do not already have the most recent versions, you should update your browser software immediately, as they also shield you from freshly patched security flaws or breaches.
- Read the Privacy Notice
Without having read it, you would not sign a legal document, right? In this instance, the same should apply to accepting cookies. Privacy policies may clearly state what information is collected and for what purposes.
Additionally, they explain how your data is being used by the service and with whom it might be shared or sold. Of course, dishonest businesses do not do this. Hence, scroll down, up, and down again, and be sure you read and understand the privacy notice before clicking ‘I agree.’
Yes, the first instinct is to ignore them as they may be demanding to read due to their length, or complexity. Nevertheless, if you want to take control of your data, that’s a price you must pay.
- Use an Adblocker
Ad blockers prevent advertisements from displaying or popping up on your browser. They filter specific content following parameters supplied by the user or the application.
Note: Not all adverts are necessarily blocked by Adblockers.
This is because some companies’ ad blockers only display ads from advertisers who meet their own set of requirements. Additionally, ad blockers cannot identify or stop spyware or infections.
3 Times Cookies can be Useful
You might find it advantageous in some situations to accept cookies. It is crucial to comprehend the information a cookie might have about you to understand why and how cookies may be useful. Below is a list:
- Domain name.
- Individual user ID and history of browsing.
- Individual tastes and preferences.
- Different links clicked.
- The frequency with which a website is viewed.
- Visitation to a webpage.
- User’s account log-in details such as your username and password.
- User’s identifiers like IP address and location.
- User’s data like Home address and phone number.
- Shopping cart items.
By enabling essential features, necessary cookies contribute to the usability of a website. Here are ways in which cookies can be useful:
- Access to a website
The first benefit is straightforward. Some websites won’t allow access without authorization to cookies. They are necessary for the website’s functionality, as well as for enhancing the website’s performance. If you choose to ignore the ‘Accept cookies’ notification, you compromise your website experience.
- Enhanced User Experience
Cookies are useful because they enable websites to remember you. Your specific user exposure may be enhanced by this memory. Websites can tailor your user experience to match your interests, derived from cookies.
When purchasing online, this more individualized experience might be extremely beneficial. For instance, when you revisit a website, it can remember products in your shopping cart that you haven’t checked out from your previous visit.
Cookies can speed up, simplify and improve the buying experience.
- Easy sign-ins
Your login details may also be stored in cookies on your web browser. This is advantageous if you frequently forget your passwords. It can also be useful when constantly checking your go-to websites.
Most cookies truly aren’t a problem. They are integral to how you experience a website. However, they still pose a threat to your data privacy on the internet. Thus, you have to be intentional about your decisions on whether to accept or reject them. Remember, too many cookies can be bad for you (pun intended). Choose wisely!