We get it – you probably didn’t grow up with the latest tech, so some of it is still confusing for you. For instance, you don’t quite understand website cookies.
When a website pops up asking if you accept cookies, should you?
In most instances, you can safely allow cookies. Some scenarios that you shouldn’t do so include when sharing private information, if your antivirus flags the site, if the site is unencrypted, or if you’re on a third-party site.
This guide will explain the process of accepting cookies, including what happens if you accept versus reject them and what kind of information cookies collect. Let’s get started!
Is It Safe To Allow Cookies?
Cookies are not like the baked dessert, at least not in the internet world. Rather, they refer to small text files that store information (data) that a website receives when you accept a prompt.
Some cookies are called necessary cookies because they are required to enable you to interact with the website in certain ways, such as when you’re visiting website stores.
According to the GDPR.Eu, strictly necessary cookies “are essential for you to browse the website and use its features, such as accessing secure areas of the site.
Cookies that allow web shops to hold your items in your cart while you are shopping online are an example of strictly necessary cookies.”
Session cookies are only viable during the time you’re online and expire when you’ve completed your browsing sessions.
Persistent cookies, as the name implies, stay on your browser either until they expire or are deleted by either you or your browser.
Did you know there are even zombie cookies?
A zombie cookie is a piece of data that could be stored in multiple locations — since failure of removing all copies of the zombie cookie will make the removal reversible, zombie cookies can be difficult to remove. Since they do not entirely rely on normal cookie protocols, the visitor’s web browser may continue to recreate deleted cookies even though the user has opted not to receive cookies.Wikipedia
Today, pretty much every website is required to comply with the GDPR.
So then, is it safe to allow cookies, or should you be worried about doing so?
You can safely accept cookies during most web-browsing experiences, but you should take it on a case-by-case basis.
Here are 5 instances in which it’s definitely better to reject cookies:
When Sharing Private Data
If you are asked to input information such as your bank account number, your credit or debit card number, your Social Security Number, or other private data during your online activities, you should not allow cookies in most cases.
This is some of the most sensitive private data you have.
You don’t want it to get into the wrong hands, as someone could steal your identity, access your bank account, and ruin your life in very short order.
When Your Antivirus Flags The Site
Do you have antivirus software installed on your computer? If not, you shouldn’t browse the internet until you do.
Antivirus programs, by their very name, prevent trojans and other nasty viruses from infecting your computer, but they can also make recommendations for safer internet usage.
For example, if a site seems suspicious, your antivirus could flag it.
If your antivirus warns you to rethink sharing cookies with a website, it’s a good idea to listen. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
If Your Computer Already Runs Slow
Cookies are small files of data just like a lot else on your computer.
If you accept different types of cookies readily enough on many websites you visit, the cookies can bog down the loading speed of your computer.
When Visiting Third-Party Websites
Third-party cookies can be safe, but only if you trust the party that will receive your cookies. To err on the side of caution, it’s best to decline third-party cookies as a habit.
When On Unencrypted Websites
The last scenario in which you shouldn’t accept a website’s cookies is when visiting an unencrypted website.
How can you tell whether the site you’re on is encrypted? That’s simple! Look at the search bar next to the URL. Your internet browser should display a lock.
Is the lock open? That means the site is unencrypted. A site with a closed lock is safely encrypted.
An unencrypted website lacks security, so who knows what could happen to your data if you share it?
It’s too big of a risk, as you could expose your personal data to hackers, data thieves, and other nefarious parties.
What Will Happen If You Accept Cookies?
Now that you have a better idea of which cookies to accept versus the times you should definitely reject them, what exactly happens if you click the “yes” option on the prompt to accept cookies?
In any case, if you visit a new website and accept cookies, you’re consenting to send data.
In the case of first-party cookies, the data usually goes to the website owner. An ad company can receive your cookies if you accept third-party cookies.
Not only do these website owners or third parties have access to the data you transmitted, but they can store it, pull it up, and use it in the future as needed.
Per Capterra.com, information brokers can also use it “to provide aggregated sets of consumer demographic information such as age, gender, and location.”
Cookies are used on web pages for one of three purposes: tracking, personalization, and session management.
For example, a tracking cookie can recall your preferences and then suggest similar products or services based on those preferences. Retailers often use tracking cookies.
Personalization cookies are used to create targeted ads that appeal to your tastes, making for a more tailored online experience.
Session management cookies track preferences and logins.
If you ever change your mind about accepting cookies, you can always reject them when you visit the website again. You can also delete the stored cookies in your internet browser.
While it varies by browser, cookie data is usually stored with your internet history. By checking off the option to clear cookies, they’ll vanish. If you’ve never done this before, it might take several minutes for the cookies to clear out.
Keep in mind that the next time you visit your favorite websites, however, you will likely have to type in your log-in information again.
What Happens If I Don’t Accept Cookies?
You’re ultra-cautious with your internet habits, and that includes accepting cookies. What will happen if you choose to reject cookies when visiting a website? Is it a bad thing?
That depends on the website. Sometimes, nothing happens.
You can continue browsing like usual, but you’ll have to input your login information the next time, as mentioned. You can also expect a less personalized experience since the site didn’t do any data collection.
However, in other cases, you could be blocked from accessing the website for rejecting cookies.
That doesn’t mean you have to change your mind about accepting them, but do be aware that your website access won’t change unless and until you do accept their cookies.
The sites that lock you out for rejecting cookies are not as plentiful as those that let you continue to use the site. Retailers especially won’t deny access to the site because they hope you’ll spend money.
What Personal Information Do Cookies Collect?
Here’s a rundown of the information that’s collected when you accept cookies:
- Shopping cart activity
- Zip code
- Phone number
- Home and/or business address
- Email address
- IP address
- Any links you create
- Session time
- Number of visits
- Browsing history
- Unique session ID
Although this sounds like a lot, cookies are generally not scary. They make it easier to log into websites on your computer next time and augment the user experience on a website.
Can You Reject Cookies After Accepting Them?
Let’s say that when you first visited a website, you decided to accept cookies because the site seemed trustworthy.
Or perhaps you didn’t know as much about internet safety and cookies then as you do since you’ve read this article.
Either way, you initially accepted the cookies, but now, you’ve changed your mind. Can you now reject cookies, or is it too late?
You can, but it will involve you blocking cookies. Here’s an easy way to do it for several popular internet browsers.
- Open the Safari browser.
- Go to Safari, then Settings. Select Privacy.
- You should see the option to Manage Website Data midway down the page. Select it.
- Choose the website(s) you wish to reject cookies, then choose Remove All.
- If you want to reject all cookies, select the Block all cookies checkmark in the Cookies and website data option.
- Open the Firefox browser.
- Visit the website you want to reject cookies.
- Navigate to the Menu bar, then select Tools. Choose Page Info from the drop-down menu.
- This will open a Page Info window. Click the Permissions panel.
- The Store Data in Persistent Storage and Set Cookies options should have Use Default checked off. Uncheck it.
- Click the bubble marked Block.
- Clear cookies in Firefox for the effects to take place.
- Open the Chrome browser.
- On the top right of the browser, select the three vertical dots, then Settings, which is represented by a gear.
- Scroll to the option Privacy and security, then choose Cookies and other site data.
- From there, you can block third-party cookies or third-party cookies when browsing incognito. You can also block all cookies or accept all cookies. Chrome does not recommend blocking all cookies.
Cookies are generally safe to accept, but that doesn’t mean you should blindly do so when you visit a website for the first time. If the site uses third-party cookies, asks for personal information, or is unencrypted, it’s best not to accept cookies.
Cookies store your preferences and login information, making your browsing experience more optimal the next time around.
That said, if you ever change your mind about accepting cookies, you can block them in your internet browser.
Even if you accept cookies, remember to clear them from your browser after a while, especially if your computer performs slower.