For many people, cookies present a confused layer of browsing technicalities. When discussing cookie technology there are even more terms which simply add even more confusion.
Types of Cookies
Session cookies are only active whilst you are on the page, during the length of your visit. Session cookies are critical for shopping websites and other logged in/membership based websites so that the server can easily communicate with the browser sending the correct data to the correct user. Without session cookies, you would press refresh on your shopping cart page and the cart would disappear. You would (apart from your IP address, which is also used to alongside session cookies) appear to be a new user.
First-party cookies are informational/statistical cookies set by the website you visit. They collect information which is then passed on to build a profile of page visits, and session history. Most websites have access to the data collected by first-party cookies. This data is then used for targeted advertising. Other websites such as Google Analytics – use first-party cookies to build a statistical view of users browsing history.
Third-party cookies are created by websites (domains) which users have not directly visited. Lots of 3rd party plug ins, website links, embedded code and other indirect services access third party cookies. Third party cookies track your behaviour and log the information for targeted advertising. Consider that you added a link to your website from Facebook or Amazon. Whenever the link is clicked a Facebook or Amazon cookie is added to the user’s cookies This cookie will track your website browsing until it expires. Third party cookies are more often than not unwanted cookies and many people consider them unwarranted and intrusive.
Persistent cookies remain attached to your browser even after closing and reopening. Persistent cookies must have an expiry date, however this can be anything between a second to a few years! Persistent cookies ensure that repeated visits to a website continue to update the same statistics or automatically log in the same user each time.
Many web browsers are starting to build in features to remove persistent and third party cookies.
Secure cookies are specific to the https (http ‘secure’) protocol. They ensure that identical keys can be accepted and exchange to enable encrypted data. These cookies are crucial to any financial transaction or other personally identifiable information exchange.
Advertising cookies are not a specific type of cookie, but they are the most widely used. Advertisers generally exploit third party cookies to ensure they receive detailed information about users’ browsing habits, search history and other (widely considered) highly personal information.
What Can We Do?
Whilst some cookies are crucial to our shopping and browsing experience; many people agree that the literally hundreds and hundreds of cookies constantly tracking your browsing history is not only intrusive, but can also slow down your browser somewhat. There are a number of technologies around to help us reduce the impact cookies have on our browsing experience and personal comfort levels.
1. Stop cookies from tracking you. Block them using your browser.
Most browsers (Chrome & Edge for example) allow you to edit settings and block third party cookies. Whilst this is still a viable option; its a blanket setting. Rejecting third party of other types of cookies can mean websites may block you from using them and impact your on-site experience. See below for chrome settings.
2. Accept the cookies. Delete them later.
Accepting cookies from websites whilst you are on the site, then deleting them after you left is a sensible option for stopping tracking cookies from infiltrating your browser and affecting your experience. Deleting all cookies after you leave a site is a great idea, unless you plan to revisit a genuine site and require personalisation. This is where exceptions come in. Rather than blocking or deleting cookies, accepting cookies and then deleting them for sites you don’t trust, whilst retaining first party cookies for sites you do trust is the best way to gain the benefits of cookies, without the unwanted tracking. There are many, many plugins and software including anti-virus software than can offer this service. Our preferred plug-in is Cookie AutoDelete. This free plug-in allows you to create “whitelist” and “greylist” exceptions for sites you trust. Whitelisting your banking and other government and official sites whilst greylisting shopping, social and other sites where personalisation is still required is the easiest way to secure your browsing data. See below for this plug-in configuration. Please note, we receive no fee for recommending this plug-in and there are plenty of others available if you have the time to research.