What is a website cookie?

For those of us who use this terminology all the time, it seems quite normal. However, for those of us who don’t, all I can picture is a big oversized choc-chip cookie that’s edible!

Defining website cookies

So let’s clarify, what a website cookie is… because if you are browsing a website and it asks if you wish to accept all cookies, it’s good to know what that means.

Retargeting and user tracking

In a nutshell, when you visit a website, a ‘cookie’ is a piece of data that is stored on your web browser that remembers each time you visit that website from that browser. That’s how advertisers can ‘retarget’ you and you’ll see repeated adverts every time you log in using that browser if they set it up that way. It can also be used by website owners to track if you visit the website multiple times (as long as you are using the same browser and haven’t cleared your cookies.)

Privacy clarification

This doesn’t mean they know your address, or anything else about you, only that they can compile a list of “repeat sessions” of all users who have visited their site, accepted the cookies, and revisited at a later time. If it is a website that you login to then in fact they will have more some more personal information, like an email address and a name, or a shipping address for an online store. Which some software can help them compile your visits in a way of analysing their marketing efforts.

Accept or reject cookies

The good news is that you can either ‘accept’ or ‘reject’ cookies when asked to by the website.

The role of cookies

Cookies are used to improve your website experience and personalise your preferences. Most cookies are safe, however, sometimes they may be used to gain access to your personal data, so be prudent when accepting cookies. Make sure it’s a trusted website before accepting any cookies.

Impact on user experience

If you decide not to accept cookies when asked by a website, you may not be able to use that website or you may not get the full user experience. Useful when you purchase an item and put it in the cart or you want to store your basic data on the website.

Third-party cookies and data security

Either way, be cautious about accepting third-party cookies, check which ones you are accepting and if you want to protect your data, you can set privacy settings on your browser. Some cookies can be used to store data to harm your personal data and security.