Cookies have long been an integral part of the modern online browsing experience. While it’s more than possible to use the World Wide Web without the addition of cookies, adding cookies to the mix provides an entirely new level of convenience. Cookies are a technology used to contain small packets of information locally on a user’s browser. These packets of information are then used for saving login credentials, site preferences, and other types of info. But they can also be used by third-party sites and services for advertising purposes, and many cookies also contain tracking data.
Who Creates & Uses Them
Advertising online has been one of the most successful ventures of the modern age, and many companies that we use every day, like Google and Facebook, have perfected the way ads are delivered. Sometimes this is done with an advertisement cookie, which is placed in the browser persistently until the user decides to clear it manually. It’s a much more convenient way of storing persistent data without the need for extra data centres and other forms of cloud-based storage. Instead, the browser stores these cookies.
Up until the last few years, these cookies were generally stored indiscriminately from one another, meaning that cross-site cookies could track users across the web. This has changed with privacy-focused browsers like Firefox, which dynamically isolates cookies away from each other. Regardless, users often don’t have a choice but to allow certain cookies onto their browser to get a website to function correctly.
How They Work
Advertising cookies are designed to gather certain types of information about the user’s device. This information is gathered server-side and used for advertising purposes, such as choosing the kinds of ads that the user will receive as they browse. They are almost always persistent cookies and will gather data about the user as they spend time online.
The cross-site nature of these cookies means that the user might receive the same adverts from many of the sites that they visit. This is also one of the primary reasons for the rise of ad-blocks, such as the ever-popular uBlock Origin, which effectively blocks most ads online.
How They Are Regulated
The website also needs to inform the user of the usage of cookies, which is usually done with a popup cookie consent banner that one might see on Facebook or on a site that offers tennis bets. Most users will accept this and allow the site to install cookies into the browser.
Thankfully, most browsers make it relatively easy to clear cookies after the user has shut down for the day, while also allowing cookies for the sites that they still want to be logged in to.