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If youve ever wondered how websites remember your login details, or how items in your online shopping cart stay there while you shop, its not magic. Its actually all down to tiny strands of data called cookies.

There are many types of cookies, including cookies that:

Save your password(s) so you dont need to remember them whenever you visit websites

Remember what sites youve visited in the past so you can view your browser history

Keep track of your shopping cart as you browse an online store

Show you targeted ads based on your browsing behavior

Well look at consent later, but for now, just bear in mind thatmost websites use cookiesand its important that they tell you so. They should alert you to cookie usage assoon as you land on the website, and it should be clear where you can find further information about their Cookie Policy.

How to Delete Cookies on Google Chrome for Windows

How to Delete Cookies in Firefox (Mozilla) for Windows

How to Delete Cookies on Opera for Windows

How to Delete Cookies on Edge Browser for Windows

Remember – you have theright to control what data you share with retailers, companies, and other third parties, andwhat cookies they installin your browser. Some pieces of legislation, like theEUs ePrivacy Directive, give you very specific rights over personal data sharing through cookies – more on all this below.

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Integrate a freeCookies Notice and Cookie Consent bannerto comply with the EU ePrivacy Directive and the new GDPR law regarding cookies.

For now, lets turn to something simple. Where did we get the idea for cookies from, and whats their main job? It actually hasnt changed much since they were invented back in 1994. The inventor,Lou Montulli, created cookies to solve two problems:

The idea of tracking is still central to why websites use cookies now, although there are now many types of cookies and a whole host of ways they can be used. Well go over these in more detail shortly, but for now here are two things to bear in mind.

Some cookies are absolutely necessary. For example, if youre shopping online, you couldnt purchase anything unless you could save items in your virtual cart. Youd lose the item as soon as you moved to the checkout page. So, in some cases, cookies areessential to a websites functionality.

If thewebsite wont work without certain cookies, the owner should make this clear. Sports apparel retailer,Gymshark, explains that the shopping cart wont work unless you accept certain cookies:

Secondly,cookies, for the most part, cant and dont transfer malware or other malicious programs onto your device. Its typically safe to accept cookies, but there are times when you might want to reject them – well look at this later.

With all that in mind, what arethe advantages and disadvantages of using cookies, and why should you care about them? Lets briefly take a look.

There are a number of advantages to using cookies, but here are a few that stand out:

, so youll only typically see ads that are relevant to you

so theres no need for you to remember these details when you log onto different websites

Once you know where to find them, theyre

, so youll often see search results that are most relevant to you when youre using Google or other search engines.

What, though, are the disadvantages?

Just like there are advantages to accepting cookies, there are also a few drawbacks. The main ones you should be aware of are:

to access information stored by cookies, which raises obvious privacy concerns

as youre browsing the internet, which understandably makes some feel uncomfortable

If you dont know where to look, it can be difficult to find cookies and delete them

viruses may be disguised as cookies

, and in other cases, cookies recreate themselves after theyve been deleted – these are colloquially known as zombie cookies

Whats important is that you understand how cookies actually work andhow you can take control of your internet privacy. Without getting too technical, lets be clear on what cookies are, whattypes of cookiesare out there, and how each type of cookie gathers various bits of information about you, your computer, and your browsing history.

Lets get back to basics. Cookies, in their simplest form, arelittle clusters of data. A web server passes these data clusters through to your computer after youve landed on a website. Your computer thenstores the data as files inside your browser cache. Its less complicated than it sounds, so to illustrate, heres how it works:

The web server passes a short message along to your web browser

in a file titled something like cookie.txt

You click on another website page (for example, a shop category)

to the server that reveals a little more about what youre looking at

Lets look at an example. Say you visit the popular healthcare website,NetDoctor. Once you land on the homepage, abox pops upthat tells you about the websites Cookie Policy:

If you click off this box and browse the website, itllinstall cookies on your browser, and yourbrowser sends a message backabout what youre on looking at – for example, cold remedies.

If youre still a little confused, think of this whole process like a text message exchange between two parties – the server, and your browser.

Now were clear on how cookies end up in your device, lets talk about whattypes of cookiesyoull encounter andwhat theyre used for.

Broadly, there are six major types of internet cookies out there:

Lets look at each type of cookie in turn and see what theyre used for.

Session cookies aretemporary. They literally only last for a session. Once you close the browser window, or leave the website, thecookie disappears. Unlike other cookies, session cookies arenever storedon your computer. Session cookies allow you to:

Heres how UK car dealership,Arnold Clark, describes session cookies in its Privacy Policy:

Persistent cookies are a little different. These cookiesdostay on your computer once youve closed the browser. Theyre designed to remember your preferences for aspecific periodof time, whether its your login details, your shopping wishlist, or your recently viewed items.

Gymshark describes persistent cookies as temporary butbeneficialbecause they help make the shopping experience easier:

These cookies are slowly going out of fashion, but you should still know about them. They allow third parties tocheck how well their ads are performing on other websites. Basically, if you click on an ad for a product from Company A while youre browsing Company Bs website, youll get a cookie on your computer from Company A.

Since these cookiesraise potential privacy concerns, theyre far less popular than before, and platforms like Google arecracking down on them.

First-party cookies shouldnt be confused with third-party cookies. These cookies improve theoverall functionalityof a website and theyre set by the website owner. Unlike session cookies which disappear right after your session, these cookies stay on your device so its easier for you to use the website the next time around.

Heres how a fitness retailer,Fitness Superstore, describes these functionality cookies. Youll note that these cookies are strictly confined to the one website i.e.they cant track your browser behavior or which other websites you visit:

Marketing cookies are similar to third-party cookies, but theyre less invasive. Theyre primarily used to show youads that are relevant to youwhichimproves your experiencewhile youre browsing the internet.

Thats exactly how Gymshark describes marketing cookies in its Cookie Policy:

These cookies help a company assess their websites overall performance and usability. In other words, they can track:

Arnold Clarksums this up nicely. As the company notes, these cookies are all about improving how the website actually works so itseasierfor future customers to navigate:

So, now were clear on what cookies do, you probably have another question:Do you have to accept all these cookies, even if you dont want to?The answer isno. Heres why.

The principles here are, thankfully, quite straightforward. Thanks to international privacy laws including the EUsGeneral Data Protection Regulations (GDPR)and theePrivacy Directive, websites must do two things before they can install cookies in your browser or device:

Why do they need to get your consent? It comes down to the type of information that cookies can gather. Cookies can collect whats known as personal data or personal information.Personal data is, broadly speaking, any information that can be used to identify you or your household. Examples include:

Global privacy laws allow consumers to:

who has access to personal information

consent to a company holding your personal data at any time

to accept marketing and other unnecessary cookies that collect personally identifiable information

Most importantly, if a company wants to use cookies, consumers have the right to know:

Companies should set out these rights in whats called aCookie Policy. Youll either find this inside the Privacy Policy, or itll be a separately- linked document.

Commonly, youll find the Policy linked at the bottom of the website in the footer. Heres an example from Gymshark showing separate Privacy Notice and Cookie Policy links:

When you access the Cookie Policy, you can see how the company uses cookies and why, along with other relevant information:

The only exception to the rule of consent is if the cookie is strictly necessary for the websites functionality – for example, session cookies.If you dont want to accept strictly necessary cookies, thats fine, of course, but you wont be able to use that website.

So, if websites need your consent to using cookies, how do they get it? Most often they useCookie Notices, or popups.

The notice will tell you that the website uses cookies, andit should give you the option to view the different cookies before you proceed. Heres an example from theBBC:

If you click no youll go straight to the Cookie Policy where you can set your specific preferences. Youll note that strictly necessary cookies are turned on bydefault:

If you decide to delete cookies stored on your device or browser, heres what to do.

Well show you step by step how to delete cookies from some of the most popular, commonly-used browsers.

For further assistance, visit the Mozilla help pagehere.

For further assistance, visit the Opera security and privacy pagehere.

For websites to work properly, they rely on cookies. Cookies are small files containing computer code that can sometimes identify you, your preferences, and your browsing behavior.

There aremany types of cookies, and they collect different types of data. However, because cookies can collect information that is used topersonally identify you, websites need your permission before they install them on your device or browser.

The only exception is when a cookie is strictly necessary i.e. if its the only way to keep products in your shopping cart.This type of information isnt strictly personal because it cant technically identify you.

You candelete cookies at any timeby clicking through themenu options in your browser, and you can alwayscontact retailers or websites individuallyto ask them to delete your personal information.

Put simply,youre always in control of what happens to your personal dataand who has access to it. Only consent to marketing and analytics cookies if youre comfortable sharing this type of information, and remember, youre free to change your mind at any time.

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