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How Website Cookies Affect Your Data Privacy

Source:未知Author:dibai7799@123 Addtime:2021-11-11 04:59:56 Click:

Cookies have attracted a lot of attention and concern latelyparticularly in the wake of the EUsGeneral Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)legislation going into effectso we decided to re-examine the origin and nature of website cookies to remind users what cookies are, why they matter, and how they affect your data privacy.

Acookieisa small bit of textual information that is stored on a devices hard-drive by a web server, which is sent again with each future request to that website.

In addition to storing data, the cookie is attached to a specific domain, (e.g.or ), and usually has an expiration date. A cookie set by one domain cannot be transmitted, used, or accessed directly by any other domain.

Cookies were first used by the Netscape browser in 1994, during the same timeframe that the creative folks atNetscape Communicationswere also inventing JavaScript and SSL.  Technically, cookies are part of theHTTP protocol.

Why were cookies used, andwhy do we need them? There was a need topreserve state across page loads and browser sessions. The web is a stateless medium at its core, meaning each page load is 100% self-contained information. Once sent from a web server, the web server forgets all about what it sent and to whom. On the next page load, we start all over. This becomes inefficient when browsing websites at scale, so cookies are used to improve that inefficiency, andprovide more continuity.

For instance, the most common usage of cookies isto preserve thestateof a login. Once you login to a website, cookies allow you tomove from page-to-page without having to re-login on each page load. They are preserving your authenticationstate,sometimes known as a login or authenticationsession. So here, cookies are good because they provide a direct and useful benefit to the end user.

To understand cookies further, lets examine four types of cookies:session,personalization,tracking,andthird-party.

Session cookies haveno expiration date. Instead, they last only for the length of a browser session and are automatically deleted when the browser is closed. These areshort-term cookiesthat have no real privacy concerns, and arenot useful for tracking purposes. They typically containtransitory or incidental information.

Other helpful uses of cookies are forremembering and personalizing information. For instance, on an e-commerce site, the number of items in your cart typically appears at the top of the screen;as you move around the site, that information goes with you. Cookies are responsible for that. If you leave an e-commerce site and come back days later, the items you had in your cart will likely still be there. Again, this could not work without cookies (at least, not as the internet is designed and used today).

Not all cookies havevisiblebenefits to the end user. Some areused for tracking purposes, and their use is not immediately clear. The cookie data isoften distributed and shared across multiple websites for the purpose of gathering information, and/or possiblyto present customized contentto you, such asadvertisements. These cookies are not activated through any direct action by the user, but rather happen whenever the user visits a website. The data in these cookies could be anonymous, or not.

Anonymous trackingcan have many useful benefits that happen out of sight. For example, it can allow website owners tomonitor how their sites are being used, which helps them adjust and make improvements to website content and performance.Google Analyticsis a prime example of anonymous tracking that isbeneficial to website owners, and indirectly beneficial to their users, because the anonymized data gathered by Google Analytics via anonymous tracking cookies gives website owners more insights into user behavior and page flows so they can improve site content and site speed.

Even though cookies can only be set by, and seen by, the domain from which they originated, third-party cookies often work around this restriction. How?

One way isiframes, which are sometimes used to present website elements by essentially pulling information from a separate website onto the website youre viewing.Cookies from third-parties can be included in these iframes.

The majority of third-party cookies are delivered throughadvertisements. The service providing banner ads includes a cookie along with the advertisement. As this adreappears across multiple sites, the providercollects more and more informationfrom you.

These third-party cookies are the most likely tonot be anonymous.

This is a very common scenario for anyone doing marketing, especiallyad-related content. Their idea is the more we know about you, the better we can target you with content you will be more likely to interact with, which hopefully will persuade you to buy something we are selling.  They are collecting your data, so they canserve you more relevant ads(that also end up being more profitable to the company).

The number of cookies you find on different websites can vary widely. To illustrate, well compare two websites.

First, our own website,: There arefive cookies, all from our domain.Threeof those are fromGoogle Tag ManagerandGoogle Analytics. These are anonymous, perfectly safe, and informative cookies that help us keep our website relevant and useful to you:

We also use two cookies: contrast-selector and font-size to maintainaccessibility preferences(located in the Accessibility Panel) during your entire website session. This helps us serve website visitors with possible impairments, who may need to render our site differently so they can view and consume our content.

A second website, on the other extreme end of the cookie spectrum, is a popular political news site,.  A first-time visitor would have an astounding769 cookiesfrom a boatload of different domains,mostly third-party cookies, many of which are presumably tracking cookies:

Theresno right number of cookies,but you can expect that websites like this withextremely large numbers of cookies are less likely to proactively protect datalinked to their site visitors. Put simply: Youre much more likely to be subjected to invasive cookies on sites like this.

Third-party tracking cookies are the only type of cookie that should potentially concern website visitors who want to protect their privacy.Most cookies on popular websites are safe, though many are used to serve you relevant advertisements. If you want toblock cookies and protect your privacy, consider the following options:

. Note that not all third party cookies fall in the bad cookie group. This setting

that are using third-party cookies, even if they are not tracking cookies. As a result, some of these sites might not work correctly, or at all.

block and allow cookies on site-by-site basis

. This will take more work and monitoring, of course, but doing so provides more flexibility and control of your privacy and user experience on different websites you use.

.  An incognito browser session begins as a clean slate. There is

. Cookies are still accepted by the browser in incognito mode, so all sites will work normally. But those

essentially becoming session cookies. One downside is that without these cookies,

. Still, this option will defeat tracking attempts via third-party cookies.

for Chrome browsers that provide various cookie-related functionalities, such as

As with most technologies,cookies are not inherently good or eviltheir ethical nature ultimately depends on how each website deploys, tracks, and uses them. With this in mind, website users who are concerned that cookies pose a potential threat to their data privacy must decide whether to allow them on a case-by-case, site-by-site basis.

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