What Are Website Cookies Used For?

What is a cookie?

A cookie is a simple text file, an information which is deposited on your hard disk by the server of the site or service which you visited.
This text file contains several data, such as

  • The name of the server that deposited it
  • an ID in the form of a unique number
  • Sometimes an expiration date

In terms of security, you should know that a cookie does not have hidden functions as one might think. It is impossible for them to retrieve our email address or other personal information without your consent. Moreover, the risks linked to viruses are non-existent.

A cookie is specific to the website that deposited it. This means that only the website that deposited the cookie is the only one that can come back and visit the cookie. The information contained in it is then inaccessible by other websites.

Cookies allow to keep user data during a connection, in order to facilitate the navigation to the Internet users. However, cookies have always been more or less controversial because these text files contain personal information that can potentially be exploited by third parties, risking data privacy.

Today, this practice is better supervised in order to continuously improve the user experience on the internet.

What are they used for?

They can be used, for example, when you read your e-mails, when you visit a website or even when you simply use a software or an application.

Cookies have different functions. In particular, they can allow the person who placed the cookie to recognize an Internet user from one visit to another, thanks to the unique identifier contained in the cookie. Other tracers can be used in the case of an e-commerce activity to store the contents of a shopping cart or to record the language settings of a website.

For commercial purposes, cookies are used for targeted advertising.

How do cookies work?

In the case of advertising cookies, their functioning is simple: they record information on the navigation of Internet users and can thus define the centers of interest of the Internet user and observe his journey on the website. Valuable data that allows to determine the different elements on which he lingered the most.

Finally, they offer companies the means to personalize their advertising according to the actions taken on the visited site.

Why accept cookies?

Currently, the majority of websites use cookies to ensure a better functioning of their web interface. The non-acceptance or deletion of the cookie may prevent you from accessing the website. A cookie is neither dangerous for you nor for your browsing device. That is why it is recommended to let your browser accept them.

Related article: How does a browser work?

What does the law say about cookies?

First of all, it is important to know that the regulation on cookies applies regardless of the type of the device used (computers, smartphones, digital tablets and even video game consoles connected to the Internet).

This regulation states that all existing websites must imperatively collect the consent of Internet users before depositing cookies.

  • inform them about the purpose of these cookies
  • provide Internet users with the means to oppose them
  • In addition, you should know that the validity of this consent is 13 months maximum, once this time has elapsed, they will be obliged to ask you for your consent again.

Some cookies are exempt from this consent. This is the case of the tracers strictly necessary for the provision of a service expressly requested by the user. They include for example:

  • Shopping cart cookies for an e-commerce site
  • Session identification cookies, for the effective duration of a session or in some cases persistent cookies limited to a few hours.
  • authentication cookies
  • session cookies created by a multimedia player
  • Load balancing session cookies
  • Persistent user interface personalization cookies