It is almost impossible not to have heard about cookies and cookie consent. But what is it, and why is it important to know about? Learn more in this article.
What are cookies?
Cookies are small text files that are saved in our browser when we visit a website. The files typically carry information about which language settings or location we prefer. But the files can also contain information about many other things such as our IP address or information about our logins and passwords.
By passing the information between the webserver and the browser, the website is able to recognize our settings if we return to the site at some other point.
What are cookies used for?
Cookies serve many purposes. For example, they make sure that the different functions on the website are working, that the quality and design of the website can be improved, that the content is relevant and targeted towards the specific visitor, and finally, cookies can be used for targeted marketing. More about this later on.
What kind of different cookies are there?
Cookies can be divided into different categories depending on their purpose:
- Technical cookies which among other things make sure that the functions on the website are working.
- Statistic cookies which are used to optimize the design, quality, and effectiveness of the website – and thereby improve the user experience. An example of this is page views that the website owner can use to learn if some of the pages are hard to find our need to be improved.
- Personalized cookies which are used for targeting relevant content consisting of e.g., suggested information and articles.
- Marketing cookies which are used with a commercial intent to target advertisement towards a specific visitor.
What are the rules on cookies?
The owner of the website must always inform the visitors about who have access to place cookies on their computer, tablet, mobile etc., and what the cookies are used for. However, the website does not need to obtain cookie consent if the cookies are only used for technically necessary cookies.
In order to obtain the visitors’ consent, the website owner must install a cookie banner on the website, where visitors can give their consent or decline the cookies. There are different kinds of companies who offer cookie management software.
What are third-party cookies?
The reason, why it is important for website owners to inform their visitors about who have access to place cookies in their browser, is that some websites allow for third parties to gain access to the cookies for different purposes. An example of a third-party service is Google Analytics which can track things like page views, source (e.g., did the website visitor come from an e-mail or social media?) and new sessions (how many new visitors does a specific page have in a certain time interval?).
Marketing cookies are often third-party cookies, and many of us have become acquainted with them. Just think of how many times you have searched for e.g., a new winter jacket, and afterwards you see commercials for winter jackets on different platforms like your social media platforms or Google Ads. In this case, it might very well be a result of third-party cookies.
Is it possible to delete or block cookies?
Yes, it is possible to delete or block cookies on a specific website by turning off cookies in your browser settings.
However, turning off cookies might result in a less user-friendly experience, and on some websites, it is more or less impossible to do anything when the cookies are turned off. This can be the case on for example web shops and self-services pages where cookies are used for saving your items in the shopping basket or for remembering your login. Therefore, it is not always a good idea to turn off cookies.
Finally, there is much legislation on cookies, and website owners can receive big fines if they do not follow the law. Therefore, cookies are not something to be afraid of.