Should You Accept All Cookies On Websites?

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I don't accept all cookies, and neither should you.

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  • I don’t recommend accepting all cookies since these may include third-party cookies that may track your activity on the web to present you with personalized ads. 
  • Meanwhile, first-party cookies (those shown by the website) are harmless and meant to improve your overall experience. 
  • Essential cookies are the only cookies you simply have to accept, as they ensure the website’s proper functioning.

In recent years, there has been a rise in privacy concerns over the internet. With that, certain laws (like EU’s ePrivacy Directive) have made it compulsory for websites to ask you if you want to accept cookies from a website. Thanks to these laws, most websites you visit will prompt you to “Accept All” cookies as soon as you open them. Now, as much as you may be tempted to get it over with and accept them, it’s not the wisest thing to do. 

For me to explain why you shouldn’t accept all cookies, I’ll have to talk you through how cookies work.

Cookies – How Do They Work?

Internet web browser cookies
No, not these cookies!

Hearing the word cookies might have you daydreaming about having one of these tasty treats, and I don’t blame you. But in the computer world, cookies are small text files saved on your computer by websites so they can remember certain information about you. This information may include: 

  • Your username and password
  • Your email address and phone number
  • A unique user ID 
  • Your browsing history
  • The links you’ve clicked
  • Items you have browsed/are interested in
  • Site-specific settings
  • Your IP address and location
  • Amount of time you’ve spent on a website/webpage 
  • Items you’ve placed in your cart

Some of these can help improve your day-to-day experience on websites and typically come under first-party cookies. These cookies are directly placed by the websites you’re visiting and include site preferences, your login information (so you don’t have to input it again), and the items in your cart (so they’re still there the next time you visit).

The rest, on the other hand, can be rather intrusive, all of which are generally placed under the “third-party cookies” category. These are placed by a third party on the website you’re visiting, and their purpose is to track your location and browsing history. With this information, they can give you personalized ads as they get a general idea of your current interests.

Funnily enough, you can deny both these types of cookies without a problem. The cookies you really need to accept are called “Essential Cookies,” as the website won’t be functional to you without them. 

The Problem With Cookie Laws

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of work being done to regulate the cookie laws that exist across the world. Many websites present you first-up with an option to “Accept All” cookies but not the “Reject All” option. Instead, you’re often required to skim through a list of cookies and manually deselect them. 

It might be a bit inconvenient, especially since you probably won’t be spending more than a couple of minutes on the website – but it’s best to take your time to only accept the cookies you deem necessary. 

Here’s What You Should Do

HTTPS web address
HTTPS web address

Well, you definitely shouldn’t accept all of them, that’s for sure. 

  • If you want things to be as simple as possible, just accept the essential cookies and get on with it.
  • Some first-party cookies can improve your experience by remembering information such as your login details or the items in your cart. So, enable these if you prioritize convenience. 
  • Never accept third-party cookies. 
  • Don’t accept cookies on websites where you’re entering private data such as your social security number or credit card details. 
  • Don’t accept cookies on unsecured (HTTP) websites, as data on these websites can be accessed fairly easily by attackers.  
  • If your antivirus browsing protection flags a website, you should never accept cookies on that website. 

You can also use browser extensions to block cookie pop ups, but these may render some websites unfunctional as they may also disable essential cookies. Most browsers have built-in options to block cookies, and separate options to only block third-party ones. I recommend using these built-in options instead.

Don’t Accept All Cookies

It’s important to be aware of the types of cookies if you want to make the right decisions. First-party cookies are generally harmless and their aim is to make your experience on the website more convenient. Third-party cookies track your activity across the web to make a profile about you in order to give you targeted ads. Essential cookies are, well, essential – you’ll need to accept them in order to use the website. 

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