The Internet has become an essential part of our lives today, ever since the pandemic happened, the immersion of the internet in our society has reached drastic levels. This makes sense as well because it was only thanks to the internet that our world was able to function somewhat during peak pandemic times through practices like work from home and online education. These were the two notable fields out of so many different sectors that the internet helped remain functional during lockdowns at a time when the world was prisoned in lockdowns.
Looking at its use in so many sensitive tasks, the internet was granted the status of an essential service, and governments all around the world including the US government stepped in to provide financial aid to users so they could remain connected to their internet services. The most prominent example of this was the EBB or Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. Similarly, service providers like Xfinity, Spectrum, and Cox internet among others also stepped in to assist users in these dire economic conditions to stay online by providing discounts and promotions during this period.
Even though we are looking at the end of the pandemic in the near future, still the trends that we picked up during this time are here to stay. An example of such is the hybrid work model, which many companies are adopting, where employees are required to work on-site on certain days, while they can do work from home for the rest of the work week. But with the increase in the immersion of the internet and the surge in the number of users, the privacy factor also becomes a reason for concern.
But first, in order to understand why accepting cookies from every random website may be a bad idea, we first need to understand what cookies are in the first place. The name might confuse some but don’t worry, these aren’t those freshly baked treats that we all like to enjoy with a cup of coffee. In terms of the web, cookies are small data files that are stored in your browser by the particular website that you visit.
These are multipurpose files that are used to identify you as a particular user, and store data like login credentials, images, usage patterns, and shopping preferences. Basically, these are the vital components that a website uses in order to customize the web experience according to every individual user as per their behavior and usage of that said website.
But in order to provide that personalized experience sometimes these cookies also hold users' sensitive data like IP address, physical location, and contact information, as well as dynamically track how often you visited that website and what you did on it. Sharing this type of information might make a user uncomfortable, and that’s where the privacy problem lies.
That’s incredibly dangerous because accepting cookies gives a website all the rights to use the user’s personal data without any legal complications, as the user has themselves allowed those websites to basically use their data. But the question here is, should you always accept cookies?
No, a user may not need to accept cookies in order to access a website, this was the whole point of GDPR, to give users control over how their personal information will be used. And if any website bars you from accessing it if you say no to the cookie consent, then it’s probably not worth visiting in the first place.
This consent is important especially if you are visiting a rather shady or unknown website since you don’t want to give any random person on the other side of the screen all of your personal information. However, if a trusted website asks you for permission and you’re fully satisfied with their terms and conditions you can definitely go ahead and give your consent to store cookies in order to make the web experience better.
Now countless protection measures are being placed by giants of the tech industry like Apple and Google to protect their users from being tracked across the web. Apple has launched enhanced security and privacy features in their iOS 14 that give users the control to stop websites and apps from tracking them. This move made many companies like Facebook angry with Apple as Facebook’s entire business model worked on selling ads to users based on their usage history.
Cookies are not entirely bad and can make your web experience a pleasant one, however, how websites use them and the kind of information they collect about a user is still a point of concern for many. But today companies like Google and Apple are fighting against these practices but until or unless there isn’t any substantial and safe alternative to cookies, it’s the job of the user to stay vigilant and careful while giving access to any random website to store cookies. As cookies are not just tools to make your internet experience better but can quickly become a weapon to invade your privacy, that too with your own consent.