Everything You Need To Know About Cookies

As part of the new General Data Protection Regulations, websites are required to be upfront about collecting your data. One result of this is websites asking about cookies. Many of us click ‘accept’ without realising what we’re doing, but what actually are cookies? How do they affect you? And, most importantly, are they dangerous? Here’s everything you need to know about cookies!

What are cookies?

Cookies are small text files used by websites to store information. They usually contain two bits of data; a unique name for you and a unique name for the site. Cookies are made of the cookie name, a value (mix of numbers and letters) and an attribute (date, domain, etc). Whenever you visit a website, it will send a cookie from the site’s server to your browser. The browser will then store the cookies on your device.

How are they classified?

Each cookie has a unique identifying name, but they can also be grouped together into different categories:

  • First-Party Cookies: These are installed by the website you’re currently visiting. They give you the best user experience possible.
  • Third-Party Cookies: These are installed by other websites or third-party servers you’re not currently visiting. They track you and how you react to current ads.
  • Necessary: These are needed for the website to run properly.
  • Non-Necessary: These are not needed for the website to run properly.
  • Session Cookies: These are stored on the website until you close the browser, then they are deleted.
  • Persistent Cookies: These are stored on your browser for a long time and are only deleted when you remove them yourself, or they expire.
  • Advertising Cookies: These are used to create targeted ads for you whenever you visit a particular site.

What do cookies do?

Websites use cookies for multiple reasons:

  • Track your behaviour on a website.
  • Identify you whenever you return to a particular website.
  • Monitor websites to see which pages are most popular.
  • Remember your usernames and passwords.
  • Remember what you’ve added to your online shopping cart.

Are cookies dangerous?

First-party cookies don’t cause any damage to you or your device. They also can’t access any personal information on your device asides from what the website requires. They don’t search for information on your device or scan other websites for your data. Their only job is to help the website collect information, and they only hold the data that you give them.

Third-party cookies generally don’t cause harm, but they are still less secure than first-party cookies. They use targeted ads to make advertising more relevant for you. When websites use third-party servers for this specific advertising, they can track everything that you do on the website. This still doesn’t affect your personal information, and they can’t access your device.

So, should you accept cookies?

Some websites require you to allow a certain amount of cookies in order for the site to work. Every other cookie, however, is unnecessary. You are perfectly within your right to deny all of these cookies, and continue to use the website as normal. However if you do accept them, both you and your device will still be safe.

Accepting cookies will give you the best user experience possible while using very little of your data. By declining cookies, you can still use the website as usual and your information is safe.

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