While most of us enjoy a few cookies for dessert, there is another type of cookie we deal with on a daily basis and their consumption is not entirely voluntary or obvious: Internet cookies.
IN THE PHOTO: NO INTERNET. PHOTO CREDIT: MARCELLO GRACIOLLI/ FLICKR
Related article: “OUR EXPLOSIVE DIGITAL FUTURE – AN INTERNET PIONEER’S VISION”
Profiling then leads to “targeted ads” or “targeted mail campaigns”, not just from the page we are visiting but from “third-party websites.” Profiling is potentially the most dangerous consequence of cookies as it can be assumed that there are companies on the Internet that know a lot about us without our knowledge or direct consent. On one hand, our data will be available to promote products that are more interesting and suited to our personal tastes; on the other hand, it is clearly a form of marketing that is very intrusive into user privacy.
IN THE PHOTO: EU Privacy Directive / Changes to UK Internet Cookie Privacy Law. PHOTO CREDIT: SURIAN SOOSAY/ FLICKR
What can we do to at least try to protect ourselves? There are three ways to monitor and protect our information other than what we are doing now.
First of all, I highly recommend installing the Internet browser Firefox and downloading Lightbeam, a simple add-on that allows users to see the interactions between the websites we visit. It essentially tells you from which sites you potentially receive cookies through a visual format of interconnecting circles that represent your browsing activities. The greater the number of circles connected to the page you visit, the more likely your data will be exchanged.
Another way to protect your data is either deleting as often as possible your browsing history and cache memory or always using the private browsing mode (incognito window). While both these options are fairly inconvenient as they require re-logging in and re-uploading for each visit, the reduced number of targeted ads is substantial.
Finally, to protect ourselves from third-party cookies we should check our Internet browsing settings. Most of the commonly used web browsers have as a default setting automatic permission to allow third-party cookies. The easiest solution against it would be to disable that setting and to not allow the exchange of cookies with other third-party websites.
IN THE PHOTO: KEYBOARD. PHOTO CREDIT: barnimages.com/ FLICKR
Companies should be careful as to what kind of third-party sites they collect information for. Users should take advantage of some of the above mentioned techniques to take more control over their privacy. The combination of these two could lead to a more aware internet browsing and improved protection of your privacy.
Recommended reading: “GOOGLE SAYS IT WILL RUN ENTIRELY ON RENEWABLE ENERGY IN 2017”