Learn About Cookies
Table of contents
- What are cookies? – Begin learning about cookies and what they are.
- What cookies are used for – Learn why websites use them.
- Should I remove cookies? – Learn when and why you should remove cookies.
- The different types of cookies – Learn about the different types of cookies.
- The concerns regarding cookies – Learn why law and regulations concerning cookies were needed.
- Laws and regulations – Learn about laws and regulations regarding cookie usage.
- How to avoid being tracked – Our recommendations on reducing your digital footprint.
- Who created cookies and why? – A short history lesson on the creation of cookies.
1. What are cookies?
To keep it simple, a cookie is a small file of letters and numbers which are downloaded on to your computer, this occurs when you open the majority of websites due to the core role cookies have today, as they help websites remember important information about you. Without using cookies, websites would have a harder time keeping track of your inputs and personal preferences.
2. What cookies are used for
Cookies carry and store data on the interactions you have with a website. An example of this would be allowing you to add a product to a shopping cart and keeping it there for when you return to browse the website, so that they can improve upon the overall user-experience by enabling improved usability (like dark mode for nighttime reading) and most important of all, for login authentication, without cookies you would be forced to log in all the time.
3. Should I remove cookies from my computer?
Cookies operate in the background, so they're not likely to cause you any obvious issues, however, there are certainly sometimes where you might want to delete them. Sometimes the cached data in cookies can conflict with the website they were used for reasons such as if the webpage has been updated, resulting in issues when you try to browse the webpage again.
Also, since cookies are actual files stored on your computer or mobile device, they will start taking up some space on your hard disk drive, and even though cookie-files are only a few kilobytes in size, they can begin to add-up if left untouched for long enough.
Lastly, these cookies are storing your personal data and if you're at all interested in maintaining some sort of anonymity when browsing online, the last thing you want is a long record of your browsing activity following you around influencing your browsing experience. It's for this reason we recommend clearing your browser cache and not just your cookies every few months, but be aware that this can cause you to lose some saved information (e.g. saved login details, website preferences)
4. The different types of cookies
There are three types of web cookies: session cookies, persistent cookies and third-party cookies. These different types of cookie-files have varying purposes.
About session cookies
Session cookies help you navigate through websites by remembering your actions and user preferences, and they expire as soon as you exit out of a website.
A good example of how session cookies are helpful is with e-commerce websites such as Amazon. When you’re shopping online, you can check-out at any time. That's because session cookies track your actions. Without these cookies, whenever you'd go to checkout, your shopping cart would be empty.
About persistent cookies
Persistent cookies work by tracking your specific user-preferences on individual websites. When you visit a website for the first time, you will be using the default settings. But if you decide to personalise the website to fit your individual preferences for a better user-experience, persistent cookies will remember those specific preferences for the next time you visit the website. This is how computers and mobile devices keep track of and store your login information, language and contrast preferences, bookmarks and more.
Persistent cookies are also commonly known as permanent cookies, this is due to the long duration of time they are usually stored on your hard disk. The cookie’s lifespan will vary depending on the expiration date set by the website's developer.
Generally, website developers add a long lifespan to these cookies so that their website's users can make the most of their individual website preferences and prevent frustrating them with constantly having to redo their user-preferences.
Eventually, when the cookie's expiration date is reached, the cookie will then be deleted automatically, along with your user-preferences for the website that the persistent cookie came from.
About third-party cookies
Third-party cookies, also referred to as tracking cookies, collect data based on your online behaviour. When you visit a website, third-party cookies collect various types of data which is then either passed on or sold to advertisers by the website you visited.
These cookies track your specific bits about you, such as your interests, location, age and anything else they can find out about you which is useful for marketers so that they can present you with advertisements tailored for you.
By tracking your browsing habits and providing targeted advertisements, third-party cookies serve a useful purpose for marketers and users but they can also be considered an invasion of privacy. This is also why you now have the option to block or opt-out of them on most websites you visit.
5. The concerns regarding cookies
6. Laws and regulations
If a website uses site-specific cookies, it requires a dedicated cookie notice page (it must not simply link to the general cookie notice page), listing all first- and third-party cookies with information on their purpose, type of data collected, stored or transmitted by cookies, data retention period, and their legal basis. The page must also provide means for consent management.
In line with Article 5(3) of the ePrivacy Directive, consent is not required for technical storage or access of the following cookies:
- cookies used for the sole purpose of carrying out the transmission of a communication
- cookies that are strictly necessary in order for the provider of an information society service explicitly required by the user to provide that service
Examples of cookies that generally do not require consent:
- user-input cookies, for the duration of a session
- authentication cookies, for the duration of a session
- user-centric security cookies used to detect authentication abuses and linked to the functionality explicitly requested by the user, for a limited persistent duration
- multimedia content player session cookies, such as flash player cookies, for the duration of a session
- load-balancing session cookies and other technical cookies, for the duration of a session
7. How to avoid being tracked
If you'd like to reduce your online presence as much as possible when browsing online, read through the privacy section of the managing cookies guide for your specific web browser. Overall we recommend choosing a web browser that puts your privacy first such as Brave or includes "do not track" options such as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome, this can also save you a lot of time and effort. Social media platforms are some of the biggest trackers of your personal browsing experience so make sure to logout when you aren't actively using them.
8. Who created cookies and why
Web cookies were invented by Internet pioneer Lou Montulli in 1994, whilst he was working on the Netscape browser. Netscape was trying to make websites become viable for commercial businesses.
The problem was at the time that websites were not very good at customer relations. In an ordinary shop at the mall or on the high street, the shop owners can see shoppers coming in, identify their clientele, watch out suspicious people and get a general gist for whether the visitors are locals or tourists, likely buyers or just window shoppers.
Websites simply had no way of collecting this information as everyone was an anonymous visitor. Without cookies or some other tracking technology, websites are blind, so it shouldn't come as a shock as to why cookies have such an importance for websites today. They've simply become a big part in the way that the web works.
You have reached the end of the guide. If you would like to learn how to view and manage cookies then continue onto the managing cookies guide for your specific web browser. If you own a website and want to link to a website such as ours to inform your users about browser cookies, then continue to read on below.
9. Instructions for website developers
To help comply with the laws and regulations regarding cookie usage, you may want to consider linking to this webpage to help educate your website's users about cookies. You are free to use the text/code below and modify it according to your needs.
To find out more about cookies, including how to see what cookies
have been set and how to manage or delete them, visit:
<a href="https://knowcookies.com/" title="learn about cookies">KnowCookies.com</a>.
Reasons you should care
- It's easy to navigate including for people with disabilities/use screen readers.
- There is no user-tracking and we have no plans whatsoever to add any.
- No advertisements at all. We're an information resource without any added distractions.
- Our guides are for only maintained web browsers (so no internet explorer) with the reasoning that only maintained web browsers should be used as a safety precaution when browsing.
- We have every intention to keep it updated for those that depend on us.
Get involved! Help translate this website into another language or send this email template to the webmasters of your favourite websites that are still linking to outdated websites concerning cookies. If you have any questions regarding cookies we'd be happy to try and answer them for you, contact us.
Learn how to manage and delete cookies on your specific website browser with a detailed step-by-step guide.
A collection of methods for webmasters to display the usage of cookies for their website's users depending on which content management system is used.
Have a suggestion?
We really care about improving the web in general, and making this website a pleasant experience for all is of the utmost importance to us.