What Are Tracking Cookies? Are They Bad?


June 5, 2019

Website Tracking Cookies

For today’s tech blog we’ll tackle a topic that’s become much more visible over the last couple years. What are tracking cookies? How do they get on your devices? Can they harm your devices? We’ll answer these three questions in this post.

What Are Cookies?

Tracking cookies are a specific type of cookie, so we first need to define cookies (the non-baked-good variety). In the digital world, the term cookie describes a text file saved onto your device that contains information specific to you, the user. Every time you log in to a site and click the “remember me” box, your browser creates a cookie. Just about anything a website “remembers” about you isn’t stored on the website. It’s stored in cookies on your device. The next time you visit the website, it sees the cookie on your device and picks up where it left off.

What Are Tracking Cookies?

Tracking cookies take this concept much further. A site that uses tracking cookies will store marketing data on you. They may keep track of things like which links or stories you clicked on and especially which advertisements you clicked on.

Why do they do this? For data and advertising. Advertisers pay by the click, so websites are motivated to get you clicking on their advertisements. Remembering what you clicked last time enables a site to serve a more relevant ad to you this time. For example, if you clicked on a car advertisement last time and ignored one for beer, you’re fairly likely to do the same this time. The site will then serve up a car ad rather than a beer one.

Some firms take tracking cookies even further. Google, for example, serves ads on millions of sites. It has the ability to track your browsing and even shopping history across a wide range of sites. Google and others use this kind of information to retarget ads to you all across the internet.

How Do They Get On Your Devices?

Tracking cookies get loaded on your devices through the natural process of browsing the web. There’s no real way to stop them from loading, either. In the past few years, an initiative called Do Not Track was supposed to limit tracking cookies, but it hasn’t worked. Apple is even removing support for the feature and looking for other options.

Can They Harm Your Devices?

The good news here is that tracking cookies won’t harm your devices. That said, if you dislike them, you can get rid of them. You can delete all cookies manually in your browser’s settings, though this deletes the helpful ones (like “remember me”) along with the nuisance ones. The NAI Consumer Opt-Out can also limit tracking cookies for your accounts.

We're Integris. We're always working to empower people through technology.

Keep reading

How to Choose an IT Consultant in Boulder, CO

Regardless of industry size or type, Boulder IT consultants play a massive role in the way companies in the Boulder area do business. While most companies may have their own in-house IT department, many of these departments are small and cannot handle all the...

7 Signs Your Denver Business Needs a Tech Update

Regardless of size or industry, technology is an essential part of every Denver business. That being said, technological improvements and advancements can develop quite quickly, leaving some businesses scrambling to keep up. While many businesses cite expenses in the...

Cybersecurity best practices for Boston Businesses

Securing your businesses sensitive data, networks, and devices is non-negotiable in the technologically-driven world we live in. Whether you are a small business or or corporation in Boston, it is imperative that you prioritize cybersecurity. It is no longer enough to...