I’ve decided to write a quick blog about cookies for two main reasons:
- I really wanted to use a picture of the Cookie Monster
Now I don’t know what your level of web savvy is, but in the EU many people are now prompted to ‘Accept Cookies’ on visiting a new website, and tend to quickly click on the banner to accept and dismiss it, so that you can focus on the website you are trying to read. So what are you actually agreeing to?
The best and simplest description I’ve seen of cookies is from this 2012 Computer Weekly article on how to comply with the new EU Cookie Regulations:
“A cookie is a type of information that a website puts on your hard disk, in order to remember something about you at a later time. Cookies tends to record your preferences when using a particular site and are commonly used to rotate banner adverts, so the user receives different adverts based on previous website activity.”
Let’s pick that apart a bit. The first sentence is what you might understand – that the website needs to remember your preferences to make it easier for you to use that website. Fine – that’s personalising my experience perhaps, I’ll accept that.
The second sentence in the description is what many people may not realise is happening – “record your preferences… so the user receives different adverts”. This is the part that doesn’t get highlighted. Essentially the Internet is paid for and powered by adverts. By accepting a cookie, you are often implicitly agreeing that information about your browsing preferences is being recorded by advertisers so that they can target you with adverts based on the aggregate browsing history of your computer.
For example, if you routinely browse Bakery websites, then you might find advertisements for Cookery Books popping up whilst you browse the web. Which you may or may not appreciate.
Again, I’m not trying to scaremonger – this is more of a wake-up call so you are fully informed, and perhaps take the time to read the disclaimer, before you make a decision about accepting that delicious cookie.
- Supercookies: What you need to know about the web’s latest tracking device (mashable.com)
- Primer on Internet Cookies (potsandpansbyccg.com)