Tracking cookies are text files that are stored on your device and contain a detailed history of your online behavior. The websites that create them use them to learn about you and decide, for example, which ads to show you.
What sounds delicious and has raised a lot of privacy concerns since it was introduced? Tracking cookies, of course. Everyone has heard of them by now, but what exactly are tracking cookies and how do they work?
A "cookie" is a small text file that is stored on your computer every time you use the internet. A website usually stores a cookie on your computer when you request data such as a web page, image, download or any other online information. Cookies remain in your browser until they expire on their own.
Cookies are encrypted and contain the details of your interaction with a particular website in order to improve your browsing experience. This might mean saving a password you've used in the past, a search you regularly perform at your favorite online store, or the language you prefer to view that page in.
Tracking cookies are a specific type of cookie that can record people's behavior as they browse the internet. They are commonly used to target ads based on this behavior. We've all experienced it: you take one look at a bed-in-a-box mattress and you see banner ads for it on Facebook, Instagram, and Google for a week.
This naturally raises concerns about what data is collected, with whom that browsing data is shared, and how it is ultimately used, especially if that data is collected without users' consent. This is why most websites today must ask users for permission to track their browsing and provide an opt-out option.
Not every website can read every tracking cookie stored on your device. Websites can only read the cookies they create themselves. Third-party services hosted on these websites, however, can read cookies from other websites. This way an advertising company can see what websites you have visited and target you for a specific product as you surf the web.
Most tracking cookies come from third-party plugins. Examples might be ads that a company sells for revenue that appear on the website, social media widgets (such as a like button), or web analytics.
Are Tracking Cookies Spyware or Malware?
Tracking cookies are not considered spyware or malware, although it could be argued that they are adware. Spyware and malware secretly track you, damage your device, and are designed to be difficult to stop. None of this applies to tracking cookies, which you must opt-in to and which you can disable.
Tracking cookies also do not record your personal information, such as messages, photos or other sensitive data, the way spyware or malware would. Cookies are largely used for advertising purposes and do not pass your data to any bad actor – unless they are hacked.
Tracking cookies collect your IP address, geo-location information, the websites you visited, what you looked at while on those websites, what you bought, or even products you clicked on but didn't buy. All of these are designed to show people hyper-targeted ads and make them more likely to make a purchase.
You can understand how this would be a problem if it fell into the wrong hands. If, for example, a malicious hacker obtains the cookies from your device, they can use this information to create a copy, using your credentials stored through cookies to access information that they may not have been able to. to have previously.
Tracking cookies have become quite common, but you can block or remove them from your browser. Some browsers, such as DuckDuckGo or Tor, do not allow tracking by default, but if you use one of the most common browsers, such as Chrome, Firefox or Safari, you can still delete cookies and disable tracking .