• What are Cookies?

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    A magic cookie or a cookie is essentially a small file stored inside a user’s computer. They are specifically designed to store data related to a particular user or a website. A website browser can use cookies to access the user’s computer. Such storage of cookies allows the server to show or deliver a website page tailored to the interests of the particular user, based on previous website usage.
    In other cases, the page itself contains a script that aligns with the data present in the web cookie and so it is capable of transferring the information from one website to another relevant website or page.

    What Information do Cookies store?

    A web cookie is a small file stored on the user’s computer. Depending on the browser, this may be stored as individual cookies for each website, or with browsers such as internet explorer or Firefox, the cookie may be stored as a single file.
    The original purpose of web or internet cookies was to store information, which would improve your experience with the website. However, the use of an internet cookie has changed over the years. So, if you ask what are cookies today? Since cookies can also show a user’s browsing patterns, they are now also used for targeted marketing. Websites are now clearer on the purpose of storing cookies, and most websites will have a cookie policy. The cookie policy is now a key part of the GDPR, an important advance in data protection.
    By storing information in the website cookie, can improve the user’s experience of the website, by storing useful website settings such as:

    • The location of the user
    • Their preferred language
    • Preferred colour scheme
    • Preferred homepage layout

    So, cookies allow the user to access individual websites customised to their preferences, by storing in the cookie file their previous settings.
    A wide range of information can be stored in the cookie, and a website can use different types of cookies. This is why it important that users check the cookie policy of the website to be clear about the type of information that cookies are storing.
    Typically, the information cookies may store, which often is not relevant to the user’s experience include a range of details that can easily identify an individual and therefore is classified as personal data, this could include:

    1. Name
    2. Address
    3. Mobile or telephone number
    4. Date of birth
    5. Address

    The information can only be stored in the cookie if you have provided the details to the website. The information in the cookie cannot be obtained directly from your computer.

    Creating a Cookie

    When a user accesses a website, the website looks for an existing cookie file.
    If the cookie is located on the user’s device, it can be used to provide the user with a customised website experience.
    If the cookie for the website does not exist, there will be no information about the user. The website will then identify the visitor as a first time user. It can also happen if the user clears their cookies since their last visit to the website.
    When a cookie is created or updated, users are unaware that this process is taking place; it is a process that automatically occurs in the background.
    However, with all web browsers, you can change the settings to have better control of cookies by:

    • Ensuring the browser always asks for confirmation before allowing a cookie to be created or updated.
    • Deleting all cookies as soon as the web browser is closed
    • Completely reviewing each website cookie policy

    Why is a Cookie Policy important?

    The inclusion of a cookie policy for any website is essential especially with the necessity of being GDPR compliant. A well-written cookie policy can help your business in:

    • Fetching personal information of the user
    • Getting consent from the user
    • Helps to improve the website
    • Advertise products or services relevant to user’s interests
    • Streamline their on-page experiences based on their particular interests

    Before the GDPR, a simple cookie policy was acceptable to explain how cookies are used on the website.
    After the GDPR came into effect, furnishing complete information about how cookies are used became a key regulatory point. It is now mandatory for all websites to provide a cookie policy that explicitly states how each website uses cookies for storing information about the user.
    Also, the user of the website must provide their consent that they accept how their information will be used and processed through cookies on the website.

    The GDPR and Cookies

    The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) provides updated regulations to:

    • Protect the personal information of individuals
    • How businesses can use it
    • Individual rights of the users
    • What kind of consent is required to acquire or use personal data?

    Considering the working of a cookie, it gathers data about the user through their device and falls under the umbrella of personal data, hence the reason why cookies are such a key element of the GDPR.
    It is essential that businesses fully understand how their website stores the personal data of visitors to their website. GDPR guidelines must be followed because there are substantial GDPR fines for non-compliance.

    Can Cookies slow down your computer?

    Slowing productivity is always a concern for individuals and businesses alike. Cookie creation and cookie updates have little or no effect on the performance of your computer, as very little information is stored in the cookie.
    A browser cookie will improve the browsing experience of a website, but with the GDPR regulations, businesses may find it difficult to use cookies as they used to. The custom information that was stored in a cookie may now need to be stored in user profiles which are only accessible when the user physically logs into each web site.

    Making your Cookie Policy GDPR Compliant

    To make a cookie policy that is GDPR compliant, organisations will have to stop gathering user’s data through cookies or may have to find a common legal ground to gather and process it.
    Before the GDPR, organisations relied on implied consent, meaning that by using the website, the individual was consenting to the cookie policy.
    However, with the GDPR it will not be possible to process the data in cookies just by having a commonly used message such as “by using this website, you accept cookies or use of cookies.”
    It is necessary for users to opt-in and agree. Opt-in cannot be the default option. The user must explicitly select opt-in. Users by default will not accept the cookie policy.
    If you are still figuring out on how you can make your cookie policy GDPR compliant, then you might want to get expert advice from our consultants.

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