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Website Cookies - I : What are Cookies?

You’ve seen the pop-ups: “This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Please accept cookies.” But what exactly are these 'cookies' & what do they do?

It’s true, cookies do improve your experience. They function as the website’s short-term memory. Imagine every time you add something to your cart and click away, it disappears, or each time you load a new page on Facebook, you have to log in again. Without cookies, the online world we know today wouldn’t exist. With each new click you make, cookies help the site identify you as the same person.

But that world relies on advertising, which gives three kinds of companies a strong incentive to repurpose cookies to track your online behaviour.

  1. Brands want to sell products by serving you ads for things you’re likely to buy.

  2. Platforms and publishers want to make money by serving those ads when you’re on their site.

  3. Middlemen are in the business of ensuring the ads from the brands are delivered to the right people.

A building block of our online world has become a tool to track you wherever you go in it. And now that browsers like Safari and Firefox are fighting back, the digital advertising industry is looking for new ways to follow us online. They disable the tracking mechanism while still letting you take advantage of the good factor of cookies.


This post is part of Understanding The Net series. Please check it out by clicking here.


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