What Are Cookies?

What Are Cookies? - WebNewsOrbit

On the web, we often come across the ad: "We collect cookies." We automatically click “I agree” and continue to use the site. But what exactly do we agree with at this moment?

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What are cookies?

Cookies are small text documents that are stored on the user's computer by a web server (website) using a browser.

In these files, you can write almost any information about a site visitor: at what time and from what device a person visited the page, what products he was interested in, and so on.

Each site has its own set of visible cookies. Internet resources have access to cookies only for those people who have visited them. That is, the conditional clothing store does not have access to the files of the online cinema viewers.

It is forbidden to write personal data of users in cookies. However, they can still contain valuable information that attackers sometimes intercept and subsequently sell on the black market.

When you visit any site, you can find out if it collects information about you. It is enough to open the "Privacy" section of your browser settings.

Privacy - Cookies Setting in Browser - WebNewsOrbit

Why are cookies so called?

There are many theories for the origin of the term cookie.

  • Hansel and Gretel's Theory
    Some people believe that the name "Internet Cookies" came from the fairy tale of two children named Hansel and Gretel, "The Gingerbread House." The kids were able to mark their way through the dark forest by throwing cookie crumbs behind them. This story perfectly illustrates the picture that cookies can track user activity.

  • Cookie Monster Theory
    This legend says that after one programmer left the company, strange things began to happen there. From time to time, the computer system would stop completely and the message “Give me a cookie” was displayed on the screen. The system could not return to normal until the operator entered the word "cookie". The root cause was hidden in the code and could not be found or fixed without a complete rewrite. It was decided to leave the code in place and train users to "give the machine a cookie".

  • Magic cookie theory
    Magic cookie is a programming term for a token, or short piece of data, passed between programs. The file is often used as a "pass" to identify a specific event or transaction. In the 1990s, cookies were used for e-commerce web connections.

What types of cookies are there?

Allocate temporary and permanent cookies.

  • Temporary stores data about viewed pages, records of order forms and other information that allows customers to simplify their work with the site. These files are deleted after the visitor leaves the Internet resource.

  • Persistent cookies are not deleted after the end of the interaction with the site. Initially, they were created to avoid the constant input of a username and password when using the resource, as well as to save the basket of goods in case of a sudden end of the session. Over time, site owners began to use advertising algorithms that constantly write information about users in these cookies. This allows you to keep his history of visits over time.

How long are cookies stored?

Transient and permanent cookies are in the white area. They are easy to manage, read and write. They can be deleted. But in addition to white, there are also gray and dark areas.

The gray zone includes third-party cookies that are not written to you by the site itself, but by another external piece of code, for example, an advertising banner. Your visit to the pages containing this banner allows you to form your circle of preferences. This information about the preferences of a certain group of users is subsequently sold to advertisers.

There are also dark zone cookies that are blocked from writing : super cookie and evercookie.

  • Super cookies are files that are recorded by the origin of the higher domain name. For example, you are on the site aa.bb.ru, but your cookie was recorded by bb.ru, that is, a higher-level domain. Typically, such an entry is a security hole. When intercepting a packet of information, the latter can be used to forge logins, change or steal user information.

  • Evercookie are non-removable. Even after forcibly erasing these fragments of stories from your browser, they can still be programmatically restored and used by various third-party systems. Such cookies are prohibited, and search engines try to block resources that record information in this way.

A description of the procedures for clearing cookies can be found on the pages of the browser support services: Mozilla ; Opera ; Chrome .

How are cookies used in marketing? - WebNewsOrbit

How are cookies used in marketing?

There are three types of data in marketing:

  1. Primary data is the most important, it is the personal data of customers. The client provides this information to the company by filling out forms and questionnaires. This is information that the site collects on its own and stores in a dedicated database or CRM system. They are not allowed to be stored in cookies.

  2. Secondary data is anonymous, its source can be an analytical or advertising system. When a person visits an Internet resource, the analytical system records all user actions performed on the site. Such information is used in the future to conduct mass advertising campaigns in order to attract people to the page.

  3. Third party data - enrichment of cookies collected by your analytics system with the help of external contractors. You send anonymous information about your user to a certain platform that saves the package you sent and returns back an extended package of data on this person (what resources he was still interested in, whether he has children or not).

How does the law regulate cookies?

Over the past few years, there have been many high-profile user information leak scandals in the advertising industry - this has influenced the tightening of legislation regarding cookies.

Recently adopted GDPR laws in Europe, Russian  Federal Law 152-FZ  "On Personal Data", Brazilian LGPD formulate stricter requirements for the recording and exchange of cookies. In particular, each Internet resource is obliged to notify its visitors that it collects these files.

There are also steps being taken to prevent the use of persistent cookies. In other countries, such as China, such pieces of information are collected by the government and used for social scoring and credibility ratings (based on visited web pages). Social scoring can affect the decision to grant a loan or the cost of insurance.

How to protect yourself from cookie theft?

Some of the most common consequences of collecting cookies can be:

  • Obsessive ads for products that you were interested in earlier;
  • Installing malware on a computer;
  • Advertising spam on email and social networks;
  • Leakage of personal information, including passport data and information about bank cards;
  • Attempted fraud using your personal data.

Most of the theft of cookies occurs through the fault of the site owners or the users themselves. To prevent this, it is important to follow a few rules:

  1. Do not go to pages that use an unsecured connection (http instead of https);
  2. Avoid resources with a lot of banner ads;
  3. If you are not sure about the reliability of the site, but you need to visit it, use the incognito mode: it deletes all cookies after the end of the session;
  4. Install third-party plugins to a minimum;
  5. Do not enter personal data on untrustworthy Internet resources.
  6. Before making a purchase in a particular online store, read reviews from other customers to make sure the transaction is safe.

Alternatively, you can install an ad blocker. It is more convenient to surf the Internet with it, and your personal information remains formally protected. But an ad blocker is a plugin at its core, which means it can potentially collect information about your interactions as well.

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