What are cookies and how do they work

When visiting an unfamiliar site for the first time, you probably noticed that first of all, an inscription appears on the page asking you to agree to accept cookies. What is this annoying notification? And what are the consequences for the user of the agreement or refusal? We will tell in this article.

Internet cookies
Cookies (from the English “cookie”, literally “cookies”) are small files sent by websites and stored on the user’s device. They contain data about the interaction with each individual site. For each browser, these files are generated separately.

There are temporary and permanent cookies. Permanent ones are formed once: each time you visit the site, they are simply updated. Temporary cookies can be either deleted each time the browser is closed or updated. But even in the latter case, they are created only for some time, indicated by the owner of the site. That is why, if you opened a social network in a browser more than a month ago, the next time you log in, you may be asked to re-enter your username and password.

Cookie Agreement
After the initial acceptance of cookies, similar notifications usually no longer bother the user. A link to read the agreement before acceptance almost always leads to a long text. It is rarely read by anyone (or at least read to the end). But in vain – after all, it is in it that the data that the site will transmit, store and distribute about you after accepting cookies is fully described.

Of course, you can refuse to accept cookies. But in this case, the stable operation of many sites is not guaranteed. This will most likely be stated in both the notice and the agreement. And this is true – in part. In addition to the need to log in to the site each time, you may experience unstable operation of site elements based on information obtained from cookies.


What information do sites collect?
After agreeing to cookies, sites begin to collect the following data about you.

● Your actions on the site: transitions, clicks, visits to internal pages, use of multimedia files, transitions to external sites through advertising and other links, as well as the frequency and time of visits to the site.

● Location, hardware and software used: IP address, geolocation data (if available), preferred language and currency, browser used and version, and device type and operating system version.

● Personal data: your full name, nickname, e-mail address, phone number, credit card number and other personal data that you fill in the site forms.

How companies make money from cookies
The data is stored in cookies and transmitted to the site, which can use it at its own discretion. In theory, cookies are needed in order to remember your preferences for working with the site: what you are interested in reading, browsing, listening to, buying, recommending to others. And also to save authorization data so that you do not have to drive in logins, passwords and bank card data every time.

This is convenient for both the user and the site. However, the site does not make money on this. That is why all your preferences stored in cookies are used to target ads to you. It can also be an advertisement of the site’s own products (if we are talking about an online store). But, in general, companies share this information with large search engines, which include integrated advertising services, such as Google and Yandex.

When your data is shared with the companies described above, you become the target of targeted advertising. Were you looking for an electric kettle on some site? Most likely, advertising for an electric kettle will now follow you on every site. Interested in food delivery services? Now advertising everywhere will offer you a delicious meal.

Targeted ads are based on what you view on websites. She will offer you those products in which you may theoretically be interested. When you click on an advertising link for a product or service, the company that owns the advertising service will receive a notification. And then he will give it to the company that pays for advertising. The more users click on the ad, the more views it will get. And the more money will be paid to the owner of the advertising service. The profit is divided between him and the site that provided him with cookies and placed targeted ads.

The scheme is simple: provided data – placed ads – received money. Many informational sites are maintained precisely at the expense of earnings on advertising. Here you can draw an analogy with television: channels also earn on advertising, only on a more general one. In the case of the use of the Internet and cookies, advertising becomes much more targeted to a specific user.

Is there a risk?
Direct consequences for the user, other than targeted advertising, are usually not specified in the agreements. Most often they write like this: they say, if data is transferred to other companies for advertising, then it is transferred “impersonal”. That is, the user’s personal data is removed from them, only preferences remain there.

Cookies are not dangerous unless the user’s computer is free of viruses. Some types of malware can read information from cookies and send it to their creators. Of particular danger are the data of bank cards and electronic wallets. If they get to the attackers, you can lose your funds. But the leakage of other personal data is also unpleasant: your logins and passwords to sites may appear in the public domain.

Cookies: agree or not?
When using trusted and constantly visited sites, you should not refuse to accept cookies. By doing this, you simply complicate your work with the site. At the same time, if you refuse, the list of site materials based on your personal preferences will no longer be formed. And, of course, advertising will become more general.

But when searching for something on those sites that you follow the link to for the first time, it is still worth refraining from accepting cookies. If you no longer visit this site and do not know what information it will store and transmit about you, this is simply useless. This is where incognito mode in the browser can come in handy. In this case, even if you accepted cookies on some unknown site, they will be deleted automatically when you close your browser.