Cookies, and not the edible ones, can be confusing, and knowing what they do, and whether you should be accepting or rejecting them is essential for anyone who regularly browses the internet.
As soon as you visit a website, you are interrupted with a box asking you to “Accept” or “Reject” cookies. It is all too easy to click on accept, and carry on with your browsing, but what are cookies and what do they do, is it ok to just blindly click accept, and what are you accepting exactly? Let’s break it down into bite size chunks (excuse the pun!).
What are cookies and what do they do?
Sadly, we aren’t talking about the yummy ones, which I have accepted on far too many occasions!! The cookies we are talking about are small files sent to your browser from websites you visit. The cookie reports back to the website server when you revisit a website, and retrieves the stored information within the specific cookie/cookies. This is to help improve your browsing experience.
Some cookie functions can be helpful such as;
- Storing your username (but not your password), so you don’t need to remember it, or type it in when visiting the website.
- Keeping items you have added to a virtual shopping basket on an eCommerce site.
- Remembering your location for area specific content, such as local news, and weather.
I’m sure you have experienced adverts appearing at the side of websites that are advertising an item you have been searching for elsewhere, they are due to tracking cookies. Those types of cookies can be thought to be contentious, due to them enabling targeted advertising.
What are you actually accepting?
There are two types of cookies;
Session cookies – these are active for the length of time you are on a website. Once you leave the website these cookies are automatically deleted. They are commonly used on eCommerce websites, to remember what you have added to the virtual shopping basket as you go from page to page within the website.
Persistent cookies – are stored on the users device, and have an expiration date that is issued by the webserver. These cookies log settings, preferences or login credentials that the user has previously saved. These types of cookies help to improve the browsing experience within a website, and give the website owner/developer information that can assist with making improvements.
When should you accept cookies?
That is down to personal preference, hopefully this blog has given you enough information to make an informed decision the next time you are confronted with an “Accept” or “Reject” cookie pop-up.
It’s always worth checking exactly what you are agreeing to, before you click “Accept”. By clicking “Reject”, most websites will function as normal, but any personalisation won’t be available to you. So each time you visit that specific website you will have to set your location, type in your username, and you may even set the page language.
When should you decline cookies?
If there is any mention of third party cookies, either decline or unselect them. Typically this company gathers bits of info from the thousands of websites you visit and builds a detailed profile on you. It takes just one badly configured site which, by the way, you can’t control, and they link your surfing habits with your name, telephone number, email, and other personal info.
Another instance for declining cookies is when the website you are visiting is not secure. You will notice there is no padlock in the URL bar, instead you will see a triangle containing an exclamation mark. If the website owner is lax enough not to have an SSL certificate on their website, chances are they will have no regard for your information.