You should never blindly “Accept Cookies” on websites!
We have all seen these “Accept Cookie” notification that pops up when we visit a website for the first time. Most of us simply click on Accept or Yes without giving it a second thought. But do you know what happens when you click that YES button? What happens when you DECLINE that notification? Does the website still work? WHEN should you absolutely DECLINE that popup?
Here is everything you need to know about website cookies!
What are website cookies?
Cookies are just bits of information that are stored in your browser when you visit a website. But not all cookies are the same. In fact, there are three types of cookies:
Session cookies: These are temporary and are deleted when you close the browser. These keep bits of info that are relevant now such as your last search on that website.
Persistent cookies by first-party cookies: These cookies are stored on your computer even after you close your browser and they have an expiration date. They are used just by the website owner that you are on. These are used mainly to enhances your website experience such as automatically logging you in or remembering your preference for the closest store which you set.
Persistent cookies by third-party: These are like the first-party cookies which are stored but are they are not created or managed by the website owner. These “information brokers” that create these cookies consistently collect your data as you go about your online activities. They take your data and make it possible for advertisers to use it to target you with ads.
Do you HAVE to accept cookies?
Most cookies are really not an issue. They are just used by the website owner so you have a better experience with the site. You can decline the “Accept Cookies” message and most websites will work just fine. Of course, any personalization will not be available to you. The next time you visit that website you will have to tell it which is your closest store or what language you want the website to be.
When should you DEFINITELY decline cookies?
There two cases when you should decline cookies:
When that cookie notification pops up if you see that it includes a mention of the third-party, DECLINE IT or Unselect those third parties. Typically this company gathers bits of info from the thousands of websites you visit and builds a detailed profile or you. It takes just one badly configured site which, by the way, you can’t control, and they marry your surfing habits with your name, telephone number, email, and other personal info.
The second case to decline cookies is if the site you are visiting is a non-secured website. It doesn’t have that lock by the website address. This already shows their lack of understanding or respect for your info. This is especially true when you are using a public WiFi where “cookie stealing” can happen. This is when someone picks up your cookie session and is able to automatically log you into that website.
How can you protect yourself and your info?
Firstly, if you are using public wifi, use the Incognito mode. This will not save any cookie info during that session.
Secondly, if you like having a personalized web experience but don’t want your personal info floating out there with these third-party brokers, then you can add a browser extension that allows you to select what info can be shared and with whom.
I like Privacy Badger for Chrome and Firefox as it looks at third-party cookies and only blocks them if they are collecting unique identifiers. This means that you can still support your fav website by not blocking all advertisers which is how website owners support themselves (like this one!)
If you don’t want to install an extension simply go into your browser settings, look for the cookie setting and select the option that says don’t use third-party cookies.
And thirdly, if you are unsure if you have already given away too much info, go into your browser and clear all your cookies for a fresh start – it won’t log you out of your Google account. Next time you go to any website, spend 1 second reading the cookie notice and decide if you want to allow it or not.
Now that you have blocked your cookies, here is how you can block your neighbor’s wifi from leaking into your home!