You will have seen plenty of pop-ups mentioning cookies in your time on the internet. In fact, you may have even seen this…
Our own cookie pop-up.
But do you know what cookies are? Or whether your website requires a policy? Are you guilty of just clicking ‘accept all’ just to make pop-ups disappear? Don’t worry, most of us are.
What is a Cookie?
A cookie is essentially a memory of a user and their interactions with a website. Sadly, it’s not a warm chocolate chip sweet treat you receive for surfing the web. Instead, it is a small text file created when you browse a website, stored in your browser. It holds basic information including the website URL, the lifetime of the cookie (its ‘use by’, if you like) and a unique ID for each user.
The information stored in cookies can be very useful, especially for users. It may record movement on site, where the user left off, customisation preferences that have been made, log in details, cart contents and more. This means that when the user returns to the website, they will be recognised and the website adjusted accordingly.
Importantly, cookies can’t be used to reveal identities or information about individuals. Although cookies are increasingly leveraged to create profiles of browsing habits and behaviour, they do not identify you. Also, the cookies don’t contain information, just text which can be read by a browser. The website server that created the cookie, and only that server, can read and use the information to adapt the website.
What Are The Different Types of Cookie?
As with cookies in the non-virtual world, there are different types of cookie.
In terms of cookie lifetime, there are two types; session and persistent cookies. A session cookie is temporary, created in a browser’s subfolder then deleted once you leave a site. A persistent cookie remains in the browser’s subfolder for as long as the duration is set within the cookie, so when you revisit the website that created that cookie, the website recognises you.
For gathering data, there are also different type of cookies.
- Operation Cookies – These cookies are required for the page to function and therefore are not optional.
- Analytic Cookies – Analytic cookies are used for internal research to improve user experience by looking at user interaction with a website anonymously. Users can refuse these cookies.
Are Cookies Bad?
Cookies aren’t inherently bad; it just depends on how they are applied. Nothing overly interesting or useful is gathered about users by cookies, and certainly nothing personal. But cookies can be used to target advertisements or add users to marketing lists.
Because of this, people find cookies sneaky, especially in the beginning when users weren’t aware of them. Until a few years ago, most people didn’t know that their activity on a website was tracked, and finding that out didn’t sit well with some!
By law in the UK, as part of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, websites must get consent from visitors to get and store data. By making users aware and giving them the option to control cookies, users are more aware of how their data is collected.
If you have UK or EU visitors to your website, then you must be complaint with UK and EU laws, including GDPR. If your website is not compliant, you risk a fine or further legal action from The Information Commissioners’ Office (ICO).
Not only must you announce which cookies are on your website, what data they collect and how that data is used, you must give users the option to consent or opt out of cookies before using them.
See, even Google has to have a policy!
We install cookie and privacy policies on all of our websites using technology from iubenda, a legal specialist in compliance. If you need help getting started, talk to us about installing one on your website.
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