We’ve all been there. You go to a website and begin to browse when a small notification pops up, saying something about cookies. Without thinking, you click the “close and accept,” then continue on your way. Almost every website I have visited gives me this message. I never gave much thought to what I agreed to. However, I recently became curious about what “cookies” really were. Spoiler alert: They’re not the delicious dessert everyone is familiar with.
What Are Cookies?
Internet cookies and not baked goods; they are small pieces of data that a website stores when you visit them. More commonly called HTTP cookies, these have a variety of different functions. Cookies can save login information and keep things in the shopping cart when revisiting a specific site. They can also track browsing history to recommend things more suited to the users’ interests. In the same lane, cookies also assist in targeted ads, which is why many people notice an influx of commercials for products they just searched for earlier. Overall, they are meant to improve user experience on a website and help personalize it.
What Happens When You Don’t Accept?
After learning a bit more about their function, I wondered what happened when you refused to allow cookies on a website. There are a couple of different outcomes. Some websites will refuse to show their content without accepting. Others allow continued use of the site, but the user experience may be slightly different and less tailored.
I was also curious as to whether cookies are permanent. The answer is no; as soon as you clear your browser history, the computer will erase cookies along with it. This is why you often have to re-enter passwords after wiping your history, even when visiting sites you have been to before.
Why Do Websites Ask You to Accept?
The reason websites have to be so transparent about data and information is related to the ongoing conversation about internet privacy. In May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) set some boundaries regarding cookie usage. In short, websites must ask for clear consent to save the user’s data and provide the option to opt-out. If an organization does not comply, it can be subject to fines.
I think it’s important that regulations are being set to protect us online. As we transition into such a digital-heavy world, boundaries need to be implemented. Internet privacy has been a huge problem in the past, and scandals of companies selling user data without consent are often in the news. I would like to see topics like this covered more extensively in schools so that future generations can grow up knowing how to keep themselves safe on the internet.