For example, if you’ve already logged into a website, the login information may be stored in a cookie so you don’t have to remember it when you return to the site.
Types of Cookie
There are three main types of cookie:
- Session cookies – Temporary cookies that exist only while the user is browsing the site. The web browser will delete these cookies when it is close.
- Persistent cookies – These cookies have an expiry date and are automatically deleted when that date is reached. Users can also delete cookies at any time, as they’re stored on their local computer.
- Secure cookies – Secure cookies can only be transmitted over HTTPS connections. As the connection is encrypted, it is a lot more difficult to be intercepted.
- Third-party cookies – Usually, cookies are only used by the website that generates them but third-party cookies are commonly used by ad networks to track users. You can opt to block these cookies in your browser.
Some website owners are not even aware that their sites are generating cookies.
If you use an analytics service on your site like Google Analytics, this will also generate cookies to track user behavior.
You can easily see the cookies your website or a third-party website is using in your browser. In Chrome, you can do this by clicking the padlock icon in the address bar and selecting “Cookies”. Here you can see all the cookies a website is using as well as deleting or blocking them.
Ecommerce businesses also commonly use tracking cookies to build up a picture of a user’s browsing behavior on other websites. They can use these cookies for targeted advertising.
These targeted ads often achieve a much higher click-through and conversion rate than non-targeted ads, so cookies can be very useful for eCommerce businesses.
Cookies and the GDPR
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a European law that came into force in 2016.
The aim of the GDPR is to protect users’ data stored by third-party organizations and to enable them to view what data is stored about them and request for it to be deleted if they wish.
As most cookies contain information that could be linked to an individual, they are subject to the GDPR for any website that an EU citizen might access.
To be compliant with GDPR, websites must clearly explain what data they collect from users and gain their consent for storing this data in a cookie.
Are Cookies Being Phased Out?
As concerns about storing of personal data and user tracking online are growing, Google has said they will phase-out third-party cookies within the next two years.
This will have a significant impact for anyone using Google Ads or analytics as cookies are the source of data that Google uses to provide insights into web traffic and advertising performance.
We don’t yet know exactly what a future without cookies will look like but Google is currently investigating alternative technology such as machine learning to model user behavior.