Are cookies bad for your health?

Cookies are a natural part of website design, so why are people so wary of them? Logo Marketing & Design’s web expert, Sarah Doney, gives us a taste of the cookies that are out there.

Visit almost any website and chances are you will encounter cookies – the tiny files downloaded onto your device to record and report on things like the pages you look at while you are there.

Up until May 2011, cookies were delivered in a clandestine fashion, their whereabouts and mission known only to the techy few. But, since then, thanks to EU cookie law (e-Privacy Directive), cookies that identify the user without their knowledge and consent have been outlawed. Rather than preventing cookies, however, this legislation has brought about a new source of irritation, the ‘cookie permission request’, the annoying banner that hinders progress until consent is granted.

This legal intervention has lead to many people confusing cookies with viruses. This is a misunderstanding. Although it is true that, along with the good cookies, there are some bad ones and quite a few that are somewhat irritating.

Good cookies are useful because they allow sites to deliver relevant information, speed up form filling and remember the contents of your shopping basket when you have to stop to take the dog out for a walk. It is these cookies that smooth the progress of our web browsing and provide website owners with information that allows them to improve the way their site works.

Then there are the well-meaning cookies that recognise, for example, that you have been looking at hotels in Florence – and then pepper every subsequent web page with advertisements for Hotels in Florence. Whether you consider these adverts to be helpful advice or an example of Big Brother meddling, they do have the annoying consequence of ruining the surprise you were planning for your other half.

Many cookies are of no benefit to the casual browser but are invaluable to the website owner. Google Analytics, for example, records a wealth of information that enables you to understand the behaviour of visitors to your site so that you can continually adapt it to meet their needs.

While the world’s attention has been focused on cookies, other, more nefarious internet nasties have been slipping through the net. For example, load an app on your phone and agree to the terms and conditions (don’t we all?) and you may well have divulged your entire contacts list, emails, pictures and GPS location to people you have never heard of. Compared to these dangers, dealing with cookies is a piece of cake.

Resources

The Information Commissioner’s Office offers advice about the EU Cookie Law (E-Privacy Directive) but you’ll need to accept cookies from You Tube to view their video!

Facebook is facing a class action regarding their use of tracking software: BBC News