What are Cookies?

By: Westman Communications
Posted: March 12, 2020 17:16Internet, Technology

Why do websites use cookies? Are they good or bad?

Chocolate Chip cookie on laptop keyboard

“This website uses cookies” Do you accept?  

Chances are, you’ve seen this message many times before while surfing the web. When the term cookie appears, I’m sure you expect a nice chocolate chip cookie to appear; however, internet cookies are not even physical objects but instead, trackers. As you continue to browse, chances are you tediously click “yes” and move past the pop-up cookie notice because, in the end, they’re not doing much.  

Meet the Internet Cookie 

An internet cookie is a tiny tracker that connects a user to a website and is set to remember certain information about you. It functions as an online ID card for you so that a website can remember your choices and activities.  

First-party cookies are useful for making your internet experience more efficient and improve your capabilities. Many online stores use cookies in a good way.  Without cookies on their website, the shopping cart you put 12 items in would empty to zero once you leave the website. Instead, when you log back in the next day and all your items are still saved in your cart, you can thank your internet cookies!  

A peskier example is third-party cookies and how they are used for companies and advertising. Ever go online shopping? I'm sure you have. Then the next day, you see ads for similar clothing to what you were looking at. That was thanks to cookies that were placed by advertisers who want to know what you're interested in, and in turn, serve you ads catered to your wants.  

Are cookies safe? 

Don’t worry about cookies – they aren’t harmful. Cookies won’t download a virus or read the email you sent, but they will learn and store your personal data about your browsing habits. What about your privacy? Well, a cookie can’t steal your personal information, but after tracking what you do online, they can create a very detailed profile about you and your habits. So, it depends on how you define “privacy,” and what you consider is too much.  

Are cookies new? 

No cookies are not new; in fact, they have been around since early 2000s. However, there is a reason why you see more and more cookie pop-ups. The Canadian Privacy Statues, along with data protection laws and regulations, are now enacting stricter legislation on businesses and the use of cookies. As cookies mainly store data about you without your consent, people are becoming wearier about their privacy, so more regulations are slowly coming into effect. Of course, this is a new topic, and there are no specific restrictions concerning cookies under Canadian Privacy Statutes. Still, it is a good thing that companies are becoming more transparent to its users on their cookie use.  

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