In the post-GDPR online world, you might well have seen so many pop-ups about cookie policies by now, you’ve started agreeing to them by instinct. It’s easy to see them as irritating, but from a webmaster’s perspective, they’re essential to making sure your site is compliant with data protection.
Your site’s visitors need to understand what data you are keeping on them, but how can you inform of this? For a start, do you even know the answer to the question yourself, or would you crumble like a cookie if asked?
What is a cookie?
Let’s start by explaining the term. A cookie is a piece of information stored on your computer when you visit a website. For example, imagine you were to go to a retail website, add something to your shopping basket, but then leave the site without completing the transaction. If you visited the site again a couple of days later, then as long as you were using the same computer or device, the item would probably still be in the basket. That’s because a cookie has been stored to record that detail.
In essence, cookies are designed to make the user’s browsing experience more intuitive and straightforward, and to prevent the same information being repeated by the user on every visit. However, thanks to certain high-profile privacy controversies, many users have become sceptical of what websites are doing with the information cookies are collecting, and the role of third-party cookies. As such, websites now need to get “informed consent” from the user on any non-essential cookies being stored.
Of course, most people aren’t interested. One report has found that as many of 91% of Americans accept terms and conditions without reading them and no doubt their cookie consent attitudes are the same, but as long as a site is clearly informing people of the cookies it’s using and giving them the option to opt out, it’s doing its job.
The next step
On Monday, we’ll look into how to find out which cookies are on your website, and how to put together a policy that clearly explains them to your site’s visitors.