I think we all know about cookies. If you’re like me, you’re probably “cookie storied” to death. Essentially, cookies are little bits of information that are stored on your computer when you visit a website. The advantage is that the cookie is able to tell your browser if you revisit a website so that any login credentials, layouts, etc. are remembered.
It sounds like the greatest web invention since sliced bread. And, quite frankly, it is. I appreciate the fact that I don’t have to log into a site over and over again on my computer. I appreciate the fact that any preferences are preserved and the cookie lets the site know that I’m back.
I like the fact that those cookies are unique to the computer that I’m on. If I’m at a friend’s place and need to log in to get email or whatever on their computer, I have to log in. And, I’m always sure to log out to get rid of the cookie so that other people don’t log in as me.
If that was the end of the story, there’d be no worries and no need for me to do some wondering and write this post.
One of the things unique to our times are the change to European privacy and openness laws. As end users, we’re exposed to a barrage of requests when we visit a new site about whether or not we want to accept cookies. There really isn’t much that you can do except “accept” if you want to visit the site. If only the cookies just came from the website, it would be easy to accept. But, then there are “third party cookies”. This is where it gets weird. Third party cookies essentially pass through the site that you’re visiting as they come from somewhere/something else. The question then becomes one of “do I want all of these people knowing it’s me? and, do I want them following me around everywhere I go?”
It came to light this weekend. With apologies to Canadian sports reporting, the Europeans do a much better job. It was there that I found myself at a British news source. They were open that they used cookies but had an interesting option and that was to somehow manage the cookies they served up!
Look at that scroll bar on the right. You got it. It scrolls seemingly forever. The scariest part was that I only recognized one or two of them! Just who are all of these things?
It served as a reminder that most browsers have the ability to actually block third party cookies. Here’s an older article but it gives you a sense of how it’s done.
The whole experience had me wondering if we’re losing the battle in all this. Do many people care?
How about you? Do you worry?