What are cookies ?
Cookies are pieces of data, normally stored in text files, that websites place on visitors’ computers to store a range of information, usually specific to that visitor – or rather the device they are using to view the site – like the browser or mobile phone.
They were created to overcome a limitation in web technology. Web pages are ‘stateless’ – which means that they have no memory, and cannot easily pass information between each other. So cookies provide a kind of memory for web pages.
Cookies allow you to login on one page, then move around to other pages and stay logged in. They allow you to set preferences for the display of a page, and for these to be remembered the next time you return to it.
Cookies can also be used to watch the pages you visit between sites, which allows advertisers to build up a picture of your interests. Then when you land on a site that shows one of their adverts – they can tailor it to those interests. This is known as ‘behavioural advertising’.
Cookies are incredibly useful – they allow modern websites to work the way people have come to expect – with every increasing levels of personalisation and rich interactive functionality.
However, they can also be used to manipulate your web experience in ways you might not expect, or like. It could be to your benefit, or the benefit of someone else – even a business or organisation that you have never had any direct contact with, or perhaps heard of.
Why do we accept cookies ?
Cookies are used in many different ways, and many of them make the web experience much better. However, most of this can be summed up on one word – personalisation.
The online store Amazon is a great example of this. The more you use the site, the more Amazon understands what kind of products you search for and buy. This allows it to make recommendations of products you might like – which could help prevent extensive searching in such a big store.
If you have bought from Amazon and don’t actively sign out from your account, it will remember you when you return – greeting you by name even. It also remembers any items you have put in your shopping basket but not purchased – making it quicker to go through the checkout.
Of course they are doing it for their own benefit as well – all of this increases their sales, but it does benefit users.
In fact online shopping would not be possible without cookies. If we didn’t have cookies, you could not effectively login to a website. Instead you would have to tell it who you are every time you went to a new page, which would be extremely tedious.
Cookies can personalise a website in all sorts of other ways as well – without having to be about shopping. For example, they can be used to remember a user prefers a larger font size than normal. A news website might remember that you like certain types of stories and promote them to the home page.
There are also more subtle uses of cookies that bring benefits that are less tangible.
More about cookies can be found on this link: https://cookiepedia.co.uk/all-about-cookies