You probably see the word Cookies in front of you every day when you agree to them being collected by the sites you visit. And how many times have you thought about the chain of events you set in motion with this consent?
What cookies are and what they are «good for»
Cookies are service files that contain data about your browsing activity on the Internet. The information is in plain text form and is not harmful to your computer.
The main task is to provide the server with information about the user, who in response will open the site in the form the user wants.
The most obvious example of this interaction is not having to «log in» to the site from the same computer. The server remembers from which device you logged in last time, and «lets you in» the next time, unless you press the «Logout» button at the end of the session.
Apart from the IP address, the server is also interested in the region you are logging in from, the language you use and the username you use. This is the «light version».
What’s really going on
Improving the user experience is the high official purpose of collecting cookies. Apart from it, there's another, equally important one — shaping your personal ad impression.
Such a warning complies with the legislation under which it’s necessary to inform the user about the collection and storage of their data.
The trick is that when the user is warned about the collection, there are often no consequences. But when you are actually being followed, no one reports it.
Search engines get huge amounts of money from advertisers for placing ads with high conversions. These ads work because they are shown to the «right» people. The system saves everything: search history, clicks, text input.
So Google knows exactly which adult video category you like. If you now breathe a sigh of relief when you remember to look through «incognito», don't be fooled: the mode is irrelevant, unlike the address.
In fact, such things only matter if they can be used for blackmail and accusations. In other cases, spies and intelligence agencies are not interested.
Online shops feel very good about themselves. For example, you once visited a product page, put it in your cart and change your mind. Next you will be bombarded with «good deals», «maximum discounts» and the like, and when you come back there is the same product waiting in the cart.
And if the shop's competitors have everything set up correctly, it's more likely that you will actually be offered a better price through contextual advertising.
Another great source for advertisers is social media. They can track everything: where you like to go, who you communicate with, where you live, where you rest, what relationships you have. Social networks don't warn you about cookies, but that is the biggest source of data leakage.
Unlike online retailers, airfare sites often act unkindly by not lowering the prices of tickets you see, but by inflating them. So if you revisit a website and see that prices have gone up, try accessing it from a different device, it often helps.
The main danger, literally, of cookies is that the user who gets hold of your device can automatically gain access to personal accounts on various websites and find out almost everything about you.
What to do
It all depends on how important it is to you that all actions are recorded and stored. You don't have to clear your cookies, if you:
- don't leak trade secrets;
- don't go online about extremist sentiments;
- don't follow the «if she's 16, she's too old for me» statement;
- frequently buy products because of a well-chosen advertising pitch.
If privacy is important, regularly clear cookies in your browser settings and restrict visits to sites that collect them. We agree, it's rather frustrating to realize that some organizations are collecting your complete profile and using it for their own benefit.
How to clear
If you use Google Chrome, go to «Settings» → «Privacy and security» → «Site settings». Under «Content», select «Cookies and site data». Activate «Block third- party cookies» and «Clear cookies and site data when you close all windows».
Congratulations! Advertising on websites will now be even more useless!