The internet is saturated with cookie permissions popups, nagging you for consent on nearly every website. Half of Americans always accept all cookies, likely without understanding what they are agreeing to.
Some cookies are essential for using a particular website, but many others are not and may have privacy or security implications. Whether the benefits of using cookies outweigh their tradeoffs comes down to personal preference. Understanding cookies and how to manage permissions lets you to make an informed choice about which ones to accept.
What are Cookies?
Cookies are tiny text files that websites store in your browser directory. These files allow websites to “remember” you by retrieving previously provided information such as login credentials, shopping cart contents, location data and previously visited pages. Cookies can be used to streamline and personalize your browsing experience, gather statistical data to improve site functionality or target you with advertisements.
Some cookies are placed on your device by the website you’re visiting, while others come from third parties, such as marketers and analytics companies.
The ubiquity of cookie consent or alert popups can be traced to two European regulations: the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the ePrivacy Directive. These regulations require companies to notify users and obtain consent when collecting their data, including cookies. To avoid potential fines, many companies throughout the world instituted cookie permissions popups. However, the effectiveness and compliance of these consent requests is debatable.
Making Your Preferences Known
Due to privacy concerns, cookies may be going away soon. Advertisers and data brokers, in particular, often collect and share your data with little transparency. However, you can protect your privacy today by asserting your preferences.
When a cookie consent popup appears, consider declining or ignoring it. Many websites function just fine without cookies, and some sites allow you to choose which types of cookies to accept. For instance, you can accept essential cookies from the site itself, while declining third-party tracking cookies.
Of course, accepting and declining cookie prompts on every site you visit is tedious. A simpler approach is configuring your browser to block cookies by default. Many cookies are useful, so you may opt to only block third-party cookies or create exceptions for specific sites that you trust and regularly use. There are also browser extensions you can use to automatically respond to consent popups with your preferences.
You can easily delete any cookies you’ve already accepted by clearing them from your browser, which you should probably do if you’ve blindly accepted cookies in the past.