Q: What are Website Cookies and What Do I Do About Them?

A: In the last year, you may have noticed a pop-up message or notifications about “cookies” when you visited websites. Here’s one example of a cookie notification:

The Definition of Website Cookies

Cookies are files that a website can store on your browser. They are typically used to identify a user and keep a user logged in. Sites that sell products also use cookies to store shopping cart items. Additionally, cookies can track what pages a visitor goes to, as well as other actions. This helps website owners learn more about their visitors. Companies also use this data and sell it to third parties.

This video from The Guardian offers more information about what cookies can be used for.


Why You’ve Seen So Many Cookie Notifications in the Last Year

On May 25, 2018, the European Union (EU) implemented The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This regulation requires companies to get their consent to collect your data. This data is generally in the form of cookies.

While this is officially an EU edict, many U.S.-based businesses have EU customers. It’s easier and smarter for these businesses to disclose cookie information to all customers because the fines for not doing so (for EU customers) are very steep.

Starting on May 25, 2018, many businesses in the U.S. began adding “cookie” statements to their websites. This is why you’ve seen so many cookie notifications since then.

Should You Accept Cookies?

It’s a personal choice.

If you prefer your privacy, you can decline to accept cookies. Most sites will still let you check out their content. Some, however, will prohibit you from viewing it, unless you accept the cookies.

Here’s an example of a site that requires you to accept cookies to access the site:

Some sites include a message saying that by using their site, you are automatically accepting cookies, such as this one:

Your Next Move

Understanding what cookies are is the first step in making a decision about them. Whether you prefer a more private or marketing-enhanced viewing experience, the choice is ultimately yours.

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