Cookies – a useful tool or an invasion of privacy? Please keep reading and decide for yourself.
What’s a Cookie?
Just as you leave chocolate chip crumbs all over your keyboard when you snack in front of your computer, your browsing leaves ‘crumbs’ of information on every website you visit. So, a cookie is simply a tiny file of stored data. It identifies your device’s IP address and records useful stuff like how much time you spend on a particular page, the items in your shopping cart, and your password for that site so you don’t have to keep re-entering it.
Cookies Improve Your Web-Browsing Experience
These tiny bits of info, also known as First Party Cookies, are created by the site you are visiting and helpful for you and useful to marketers.
As a website owner/marketer you want to know with each individual browsing session…
- Where do my website viewers live?
- What page(s) do they linger on? What does this say about their interests?
- Have they liked products similar to mine on social media?
- Did they fill their cart, but leave the page before purchasing?
- Did I capture enough information to continue to offer this person the same or similar products through alternative means?
For you as the private person surfing the web and shopping, authentication cookies are helpful because…
- Once you log-in to a site with your user name, the cookie remembers your password. You don’t have to log-in every time.
- Maybe you like sports equipment better than books. The site will open with the products you like best because the cookie remembers.
- The site knows what you have purchased before and will offer the same products again, perhaps with a special offer.
- If you have ever recorded your credit card number, cookies remember it along with your address. You don’t have to re-enter payment or shipping information.
So the data stored on secure cookies make shopping a breeze for web-surfers and a useful tool for marketers.
Cookies – The Dark Side
Unfortunately, there are also Tracking Cookies, sometimes known as Third Party Cookies, which are commonly used to track individuals’ browsing histories – a potential privacy concern which caused European and U.S. lawmakers to take action in 2011.
These tracking cookies are often attached to ads that litter the pages of click-bait sites like “How My favorite Athlete Lost 100 Pounds” or “What That Adorable Child Movie Star Looks Like Today.” They can store your information even if you never clicked the ad!
A site such as this could theoretically generate tracking cookies for every advertiser without your knowing it and learn all kinds of things like…
- Your credit card & bank info.
- Your street address, phone number, and email address.
- Your political and religious preferences, as evidenced by your ‘likes’ on Facebook.
Once your data has been spied upon in this fashion, you may find yourself getting unwanted spam emails and phone calls.
Protect Yourself and Your Customers from Potential Danger
Most folks have never been harmed by cookies or data gathering. Nor will they be.
However, if this is an area of great concern, you can mitigate security breaches by changing your security settings.
- Go to Settings, Privacy section – sometimes listed under Tools, Internet Options, or Advanced.
- Follow the prompts to manage or remove cookies.
- Make sure that your website’s URL begins with HTTPS. (The S means secure. Customers know this and are fearful of sites whose addresses begin with HTTP)
Some cookies can be difficult to get rid of. Or if you want to make sure your website is offering the most secure experience for your customers, Big Rig Media is here to help.
If you have more questions or concerns, contact us. We offer no-obligation consultations so you can feel safe while surfing the web and offer that same security to your customers. All you have to do is call or fill out the form.
With over 20 years of internet experience and 5-Star ratings from hundreds of reviewers, Big Rig Media is uniquely positioned to help you create the safest viewing experience possible.