We are constantly disrupted and interfered by it, luring into our searches, and claiming a few centimetres of our screens. Indeed, we have reached a time where not only bakers can say this: we live in a world of cookies. Our childhood fantasy has turned out to be a daily headache which we encounter whenever we click on a website.
Faced with it, most of us have given in to resignation and, just like with ‘I have read and agree to the Terms and Conditions’, we click on the accept option without thinking about it twice. Conflictingly, we are at the same time, increasingly becoming more alert in terms of protecting the privacy of our personal data and online information when accessing websites.
As a completely unknown being, cookies are for many an alien entity that surely feeds on our information, which we give once we fall victims to technological surrender. But, are cookies actually, the culprits in these assaults on your privacy? And is the European Union our knight in shining armour that is battling these criminal biscuits with ruthless regulations and implacable directives?
Let’s start from the basics. In a nutshell, a cookie is a small file containing specific data about your search that is stored in your computer but read by the website server. With that in mind, the obvious follow-up question becomes, what kind of data? Depends. Functional cookies will keep useful information like your login details or your Zalando basket items. In turn, they are also beneficial for the website owners in order to keep track of their users. But cookies come in all shapes and sizes. Other cookies can use your data differently. Without it being apparent, your information might also be being processed by third parties, tracking your searches and producing behavioural profiles, making you a target to all kinds of advertising. It is for this type of use that the European Union decided to intervene.
The GDPR was negotiated for 4 years until it came into force in 2018. With more than 3000 amendments, it has become the most lobbied legislation in the history of Europe. Its purpose? To guarantee full transparency by websites in the way your personal information is collected and processed, where cookies serve as one of these data collection methods.
Importantly, the regulation ruled that online identifiers, would now be classified as ‘personal data’, unlike in the past where such identifiers only included features such as your name, location… Today it extends to IP addresses, fingerprints or web bugs, used for web analytics but also for email tracking.
To this, we shall add the EPD. Also known as the cookie law, it requires all websites operating within the EU to get informed consent from users regarding their cookie use. Therefore, the pop-ups now are due to a law whereby websites have to ask for your permission on their usage of cookies and in this way, they inform you that they are indeed using cookies and more importantly, what are they using them for.
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