How Do Cookies Track You Around the Web and How to Stop Them?
Websites create cookies, and you pick them on the way while using them. Websites do this on purpose. They may want to track your IP address, language, products you order, and other activities on the Web. You collect them on your device if you use Firefox, Chrome, Safari, or any other browser that is not adequately protected against cookies. Unfortunately, there is no way to protect your information against them apart from using technological methods, like VPNs or a reliable anti-detect browser for multi-accounting.
Even though most cookies are harmless, some can be active even if you are not using the website anymore, continuing to collect information about your Internet activities. In addition, they are tracking cookies used by third parties for fraudulent purposes.
These tracking cookies are annoying because they are used for spying on you. They are also called spyware, which is very difficult to avoid. We want to explain how they work and how you can prevent this, giving details.
Different Types of Cookies
You can come across session and persistent cookies across the web. You can delete them when you use specific settings in your browser.
What Are Session Cookies?
Session cookies are inherent to any browser. They are temporary and deleted when you close the browser. If cookies have an expiration date, they are session ones. Their primary purpose is to see what you place in the shopping cart, and commercial websites widely use them. These sites can store such information in their databases.
Persistent Cookies and Their Use
Persistent cookies can be of two types – first-party cookies and third-party cookies. First-party cookies are stored on the memory of your device. They come to it from the website that has created them. They also have an expiration date and remain on your computer as long as this website needs them. Such cookies can improve the efficiency of your online activities because they remember that you have signed in to the site and do not need to enter the login and password every time you need to use it.
Third-party cookies are tracking cookies. They are also stored on your computer but are not as harmless as their first-party counterparts. They provide access to your data to those third-party websites that did not create them. Any third party can collect information about you and your online activities. They help get this data every time you visit the page they come from.
What Is the Source of Tracking Cookies?
Tracking cookies come from the resources that track someone’s activities to compete with others. Such resources include advertisements, web analytics, and different widgets from social media. Even share buttons and comments here can contain cookies. You do not necessarily have to open the ad or use a sharing button. Instead, the cookie sends the information about you to the interested server whenever you open the page.
What Information Do Cookies Collect?
Such cookies are used for retargeting, a part of advertising campaigns. It is an efficient tactic that shows adverts to people who have recently shown interest in specific products or services or just visited a website by chance. For example, it means that you have been retargeted when you once bought something from eBay and then started to see the ads for similar products from other commercial websites.
When you visit a shopping site, you pick up a tracking cookie that has a unique ID. It identifies your browser, and the shopping site owner signs up for it. It pays for its advertising platform (for instance, Google), and when you visit Google, the website sees its cookie and recognizes the website you are using. Then, Google shows the ad for this shopping site. Other advertisers on Google also use this cookie and send their ads to you if they see that you belong to their target audience.
This way of enhancing advertising campaigns may seem harmless. However, tracking cookies follow all your activities on the Web. Since Google advertising is everywhere, other advertising companies can see the cookies from your device sent back to their servers and collect your browsing history, voting websites, and how long you have been using them. They also bring the information about the sites you have used, the so-called referrer URL.
Then, the cookies start collecting other information about you and your device. For example, they can detect your location, history of purchases and related financial information, how many times you have seen the ad, and what links you have been interested in. They gather all this information without your awareness and consent. In many countries, websites must inform users that they are utilizing tracking cookies. However, they do their best to keep this information in the background.
How to Get Protected Against Tracking Cookies?
If you want to stop cookies from tracking your behavior online, start with the deletion of those you have already caught from your device. Your browser settings allow for clearing cookies. You can check how to do it by finding specific information on the browser’s website. Remember that the browser will not distinguish between the types of cookies that are helpful and harmful, so it will clear them all.
You can also find the tab Do Not Track on your browser. This feature sends your request to the website you are using. It can disable cross-site tracking and following you from individual settings. Tracking cookies will be disabled too.
However, not all websites usually react to your request. This is because they do not have any restrictions for ignoring it, and there is no legal responsibility or enforcement on the part of any authorities. That is why websites that use tracking cookies are not afraid of consequences and continue their policy.
Of course, if there is a Do Not Track feature on your browser, switch it on, but you need to seek other measures to protect your sensitive information. For example, you cannot see which websites use tracking cookies and whether they follow your activities. The best way to protect your online presence is to use an anti-tracking browser or a VPN. Some useful browser extensions ensure more protection as well. ‘Privacy Badger, ”Disconnect,’ and ‘Adblock’ can be very effective. They will make your Internet use more private and speed up loading the pages because no third-party elements can intervene with your activity.
Tracking cookies have been used for more than ten years, and their functions have changed a little or haven’t changed since then. That is why you need to opt for advanced and more technological protection methods to ensure that your online activity and private information are entirely secure. Using anti-detect browsers, VPNs, and other types of software can help a lot.
Keep in mind that not all cookies are harmful. First-party cookies can help you use the Internet more smoothly. You may even need to install them if they disappear due to the work of protective software.