Do I have to click “Allow cookies” on every website that asks for it?

Should I allow cookies every time you are asked? Away from a computer, device, or phone, the answer is absolutely “yes,” especially when it comes to chocolate chips. But cookies on websites are another story. Do we have to accept cookies when websites interrogate?

It is complicated. Sit back, relax and maybe grab a real cookie. We’ll figure that out and answer any questions we think you have.

Is it really that complicated? Either we allow cookies on every website that requests them, or we don’t. Let’s not keep ourselves in suspense: What is it?

If you are looking for a direct and easy answer so you can go click on something else, the answer is no, you should not click “allow cookies” on every website that asks you to. But there is some nuance to the whole website cookie situation, and so if you want to know when to allow cookies and when not to, then yes, it’s complicated.

Good. What are even cookies?

When you visit a website and are asked if you accept cookies, you accept or reject text files. These text files are stored on your web browser, and they track and collect data from your browser, returning that information to the website.

By the way, why the hell do we call text files “cookies”?

In the mid-1990s, a computer programmer named Lou Montulli invented these text files and called them cookies because he had heard the term “magic cookie” in a course on operating systems at university. The original magic cookie term was similar to what it was trying to do, which was to improve a website’s memory, so websites would remember who you are when you return to them (otherwise you’d be putting something to buy later in a shopping cart website, and it would never stay there, which would be annoying if you closed your browser or tab and came back to it a few minutes later). And Montulli liked the “cookie” sound, so there you have it.

Are cookies bad?

“Overall, cookies aren’t bad or good,” said Cris Angulo , a computer expert at JustAnswer.com, a question and answer site. “Accepting them can be more of a personal preference on the sites you visit, allowing you to choose whether to give them data they can use to better personalize your online experience on the websites.”

For example, we mentioned the ability of an online store’s shopping cart to remember your stuff. Well, if you’re grateful when a website saves your login information so you don’t have to continually retype your username and password, then you should thank the website’s cookies (and Lou Montuli).

Without cookies, if you go to a weather website, you’ll have to re-enter your zip code each time to see if it’s going to rain or shine in your area. If you frequent a dating site and want it to remember you and remember your profile, cookies will do that. If you use Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, cookies are placed on your computer. You understand: cookies are everywhere on the Internet.

In general, cookies from a website are good (or unavoidable) and you must accept them.

How do we know which cookies to accept and which not to accept?

This is the main question that torments all Internet users. You see, there is more than one type of cookie.

Tim Finin is a professor of computer science and electrical engineering at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and he explained that there are three types of cookies that we typically encounter:

  • Session cookies. “Session Cookies are the safest and most useful for users,” Finin said. “They help websites deliver content tailored to your device and remember choices you have made about them. They are automatically deleted when you close your browser.
  • Persistent cookies. Persistent cookies are created by the websites you visit and stored on your device. They can recognize repeat visits and remember useful things about you, like your account. They can only be accessed by the site that created them,” Finin said.
  • Third-party cookies. “The least useful and [most] intrusive,” Finin explained. He said these are cookies developed by third parties, not text files created by the website you are visiting, and that these third parties “may record and embed information about your web activities useful for marketing”. .

Suddenly, internet seems exhausting (more than usual). Are you telling me that I should stay away from third-party cookies?

“You may want to block third-party cookies if you don’t want your web behavior to be tracked by advertisers,” Finin said.

This is because “wWhen you click ‘Allow All Cookies’, you are giving the website carte blanche to install dozens of third-party cookies and trackers,” said Roberto Yusa assistant professor of computer science and Finin’s colleague at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

“These trackers can track you as you browse and tell third-party companies which websites you visit,” Yus said, adding that advertisers will suddenly know what news articles you read and what products you are looking for in a search engine, “ which includes everything from the mundane to the really sensitive like medications and drugs.

It can get pretty crazy. Your computer, device or phone, they are all cluttered with cookies.

“Websites will not just set one cookie on your browser, but may set dozens, to enable them to collect information about your use of their site,” said Fred Schollassociate professor of cybersecurity and director of the graduate program in cybersecurity at Quinnipiac University.

“These all fall into the category of first-party cookies or cookies stored on your browser from the site you’ve actually browsed to,” Scholl said, noting that third-party cookies are owned by “other sites, such as advertising agencies and data brokers.

These “integrate tracking cookies into the sites on which you can browse, in order to monitor your browsing habits. This information can then be sold to other sites that may integrate advertisements during your search experience. »

So how do I stop third-party cookies from tracking me?

You can do this by going to a search engine and looking for instructions to block third-party cookies in your browser of choice (Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, etc.). Now, that said, if you banish third-party cookies from your browser, you may find that some websites simply don’t work properly.

“Some websites will not allow you to access their websites if you do not accept cookies,” said Steve Weisman, lecturer in law, tax and financial planning at Bentley University and author and creator of scamicide.coma website that deals with scams, both online and offline.

So if that’s the case, you’ll want to add the website to a list of those you’ll accept third-party cookies from. Unless you have a really weird browser, yours should allow you to add these websites to a list it will store. In Google Chrome, for example, you can go to Settings > Privacy and Security > Cookies and other site data, then where it says “Sites that may still use cookies” you can click to add the websites you trust.

It sounds like a lot of work. I really don’t care if the ads follow me, especially if it’s something I might want to buy. I will just click “yes” every time a site asks me if I accept cookies.

It’s one way to go, but you really shouldn’t, Weisman said. He is the first to say that cookies can be useful to consumers and improve website experience, but, he said, “there are many times when you shouldn’t allow cookies. In particular, if the website you are on is not encrypted.

If that’s the case, says Weisman, “your data isn’t secure, and personal data like credit card information can be more easily stolen.”

If you’re wondering how you can tell if a website isn’t encrypted, a sure sign is to look at the URL. If you notice that the web address doesn’t have “s” after the “http”, then it’s a website that probably shouldn’t have cookies to track your every move. .

So the bottom line is that I should accept cookies from certain websites?

Yes, from websites you trust and use often. You can’t really escape accepting cookies. It’s just the way the, well, you-know-what falls apart.

Edwin S. Wolfe