Internet cookies: consent or decline?
To consent or not to consent? Internet users all ask themselves this question. Nowadays, websites have to inform users of their use of internet cookies, but they only offer them a choice: consent or decline. As such, users still have doubts and questions regarding the potential risks of those cookies. How then, do we act towards internet cookies?
What are internet cookies anyway?
Internet cookies are files made from data (username, passwords…) exchanged between a server and the user’s computer. Those files allow to recognise the users when they browse the web and therefore allow to improve their online experience.
Internet cookies can, for example, identify a user and remember their login details, as well as their preferences (sport, politics, economy…)
For online shopping websites, cookies allow them to trace the products web users have looked up, making it possible for them to recommend other products that users may like, as well as store their shopping cart while they’re still browsing.
Cookies have specific roles. They can ensure the website’s technical organisation, improve user experience, and help with targeting and marketing.
The different kinds of cookies
There are two big kinds of internet cookies: session cookies and persistent cookies.
Session cookies are only used when you’re browsing online. They’re stocked in the RAM and not on the hard drive. When you stop browsing, those cookies are usually deleted. They contribute to the function of the “back” function or third-party plug-ins. Those plug-ins are created so that specific browsers can function, but also to protect the user’s online privacy.
Persistent cookies on the other hand, will stay in a computer, even if they have expiration dates. They have two main functions:
- Determine whether the user is logged in or not, and the username under which are entered browsing details
- Trace the user’s browsing details to make suggestions on products that could interest them
Accept or decline cookies: what you need to know
Generally speaking, accepting cookies allows a website or an app to have access to your browsing details and use them. Depending on the server’s size, internet cookies can be analysed, exchanged or sold. However, the general conditions of use have to be mentioned in the general terms and conditions of sale.
If you refuse the cookies, your data cannot be collected. However, if you choose this option, some functions of the website may not be available. Indeed, if cookies merely used to be utilitarian files, they now allow to make the user’s browsing experience easier and better.
Internet cookies, innocent files by nature
It’s important to know that cookies are stocked by the browser, and not by the websites. This means that a website cannot put a hidden malware in an internet cookie.
Moreover, since the data in the cookies don’t change, they’re harmless. Your computed therefore cannot be infected by a malware because of a cookie.
However, it is true that hackers can divert cookies and therefore browsing details. The risk lies in their ability to trace the browsing history of the users, which could become a security problem.
Beware of third-party cookies
Third-party cookies present a higher risk than traditional internet cookies. Those files are distributed by websites other than the one you’re currently browsing. This is generally because they’re linked to existing ads on the page.
Therefore, browsing on a website which has 10 advertisements can generate 10 cookies, even if you don’t click on them.
Third-party cookies are a good way to analyse and trace a user’s browsing history. They’re useful to ad companies and to societies that distribute their own advertisements.