Why are all my favorite websites asking me for cookies? And should I just say yes?

It can be confusing, but we’re here to help it make sense

Cookies. (Image by Tumisu from Pixabay.)

You know when you land on a website and there’s that box with a question: “Do you accept cookies?”

If you’re anything like me, you might blindly just click “OK” and move on with your mission.

Things are changing where cookies are concerned, so it’s not only important to understand what they are, but how they work and when is the right time to agree to accept.

Soon, you’re going to have more say over how your data is used. But before we get to that, let’s just give you a quick rundown of how this works.

Giving and taking cookies

For starters, did you know that you are actually the one bringing the cookies? Don’t worry, there’s no baking involved here.

In fact, the cookie we’re referring to is really just a small piece of data that’s stored on a computer as you browse through websites. It’s a way your favorite sites remember you.

Think of it like this: You see an old friend, but you’re in a mask. They don’t recognize you at first, but as soon as you pull that mask down, your friend says, “Oh, HEY! I didn’t recognize you until you took that off.”

Accepting cookies when you go to a website is like pulling your mask down and ensuring your friend (or the website, in this scenario) recognizes you.

In short, you bring the cookie, you hand it over to whichever web browser you’re using -- Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, etc. -- and then the browser can hand it over to websites.

What happens with those cookies and how it gives you a better experience

You’re probably wondering, why do we do this? Well, there are a couple reasons.

Looking back to the pre-cookie days, it was much like reading a book and handing it off to a friend who then handed it off to another friend. The book had no memory of you or anyone else who read it. That’s what the internet used to be like, until the cookies came in.

As we said above, when you agree to share cookies, you’re allowing that website to remember you so that it can match your preferences more quickly and appropriately.

This means things like allowing you to stay logged into a website, instead of having to type in a login and password each time you visit the site.

It can also remember how you moved about the site. Have you ever been shopping online, put something in your cart and then decided you’d wait, but you just close out the browser and went on with your day?

The next time you went back, perhaps that item was still there, waiting for you. That is your cookies at work.

Cookies and ads

Cookies also help websites remember your preferences for ads. Were you checking out a stationary bike on Peloton and then all of a sudden, you’d see ads popping up on other websites for Peloton? That’s cookies at work.

We know it can be annoying, or it might even make you feel uncomfortable, but think of it like this: Ads will be on websites you visit, no matter what. You may as well see ads that are relevant to you, right?

It’s important for us to convey that with most things, there are good and bad actors when it comes to cookies, so it’s important to understand that different websites use and share your cookies differently.

Do you ever go to websites that don’t ask you if you’re OK with sharing cookies? They’re still taking yours; they’re just not being transparent about it.

What’s referred to as third-party cookies allow advertisers to track a person’s browsing history across the web on any site that contains their ads.

The problem with that is, despite the fact that the internet is generally secure, your data can quickly make it into the hands of many advertisers and websites.

Some websites will turn right around after receiving your data and just distribute it to others.

However, websites you trust, such as News4Jax.com, are conservative about how your cookies are used. We want you to return to our website. We look at your trust as an extremely valuable thing.

Things are changing

In California, the transparency websites must use is changing where cookies are concerned, and many states are likely to quickly follow their lead.

Lawmakers there enacted a data privacy law in 2020 called the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) that empowers its residents with ownership of their personal information, and it changes how websites handle visitor data.

The law effectively gives people more control over their own data, as well as creates more regulatory supervision of the companies handling your data.

One of the cool things about this is that plenty of businesses that are located outside California will also have to comply with the law. And many others will soon follow.

You can learn more about the CCPA by clicking or tapping here.

Protect yourself

We’ll say it again: Cookies lead to a better experience for you, and it allows companies to rely on advertising to give you quality content, but there are things you can do to ensure you’re protecting yourself.

If you’re visiting a new website, use incognito mode. Doing that prevents any cookies from being taken from you or from being exchanged at all.

Check your settings when you go to a website to see what information you’re sharing. You can grant more or less access to what you’re sharing.

Ultimately, make the decision to go to websites you trust, like News4Jax.com.

We want you to know you can trust us, and we want you to know you can feel safe coming back to our website every day.

About the Author:

Dawn Jorgenson, Graham Media Group Branded Content Managing Editor, began working with the group in April 2013. She graduated from Texas State University with a degree in electronic media.