National Cookie Day – what is it?

Although National Cookie Day (4th of December) was originally meant to celebrate the small, sweet treats we all love, it can be a time to reflect on the amount of our information that is being tracked.

What is a tracking cookie? A tracking cookie is a small text file that websites save to your browser. They are neither good nor bad and hardly take up any space. These files contain data about you, your browsing history, and your activity on that particular site. Cookies are mainly used for marketing and advertising purposes. They are there to tailor your online experience and hopefully increase the chance of you purchasing something or continuing to explore the site.

There are two main types of cookies: first-party and third-party. First-party cookies only collect and store data pertaining to one website whilst third-party cookies track your activity over an extended period and over multiple websites. For instance, the holidays are coming up and you decide to search for the new toy that your child has been asking for. Once you have finished your shopping you might go onto another familiar site to do whatever it is you decide to do, however, you notice that you are now receiving ads for the same item that you had previously searched for or similar items. This is how third-party cookies work. The sites that you have visited store these cookies on your browser, and they then send targeted ads to you as you browse other websites on the internet.

So, how much information do cookies store and track?

Information stored in cookies can range from your general location to login credentials. When you return to a regularly visited site and go to the login page, there is usually a “remember me” option. If you select this option your login credentials will be stored in the form of cookies, allowing you to login easily the next time you visit that site. Cookies often store your preferred settings and languages and send them back to the website you’re visiting to personally tailor your online experience. Because cookies are mainly used for marketing purposes, they will often store your previous browsing activity, such as what websites you visited and the pages you viewed whilst on that site.

Do not worry, if you don’t like the idea of cookies tracking your browsing activity you can disable them. In your Chrome browser, click the three dots in the upper right corner of the page. Then you’ll want to click on “Settings”. Once in the settings menu, select “Show advanced settings”. From there you can click on the “Privacy” heading and then click on “Content settings…”. From this page you can check the box next to “Block third-party cookies and site data”. It’s as simple as that.