Most everyone is familiar with the term “cookie” when it comes to browsing the web, but if you’d like to learn more about the true purpose of a tracking cookie, keep reading.

A tracking cookie allows advertisers to monitor the websites that a user routinely visits. While this data is quite useful for the third-party advertiser, it is often considered privacy invasion due to lack of understanding by the consumer. However, tracking cookies collect data on users and analyze that person’s browsing habits and interests, which enables the marketer to gain insight on said person’s interests. The key is using a tracking cookie correctly so it doesn’t invade someone’s privacy.

The Purpose of a Tracking Cookie

When tracking cookies are implemented, the advertiser can determine what products a visitor is interested in, how they learned about a certain product, and the likelihood of them returning to a particular website.

Cookies have become a popular tool for marketing strategies. In fact, many companies implement them so they can learn what visitors like and dislike about a site and the products/services being sold.

However, there are various types of cookies and it’s crucial to understand the differences in order to avoid legal repercussions. The two primary forms of cookies are “session cookies” and “persistent cookies.” Just as the name indicates, a session cookie is active for one browsing track information during a single sitting or browsing session.

A persistent cookie, also referred to as a permanent cookie, will monitor a user’s activity over a longer period of time, collecting log in and browsing information which identifies browsing behavioral patterns for that user. Essentially, a tracking cookie learns the interests of a user and aids the marketer in building a targeted audience. 

The Benefits of Tracking Cookies

Think of a tracking cookie as stored memory of a user’s browsing activity. In addition to its being a useful marketing tool, tracking cookies can also improve a website’s functionality so the user experience on that website will be more enjoyable. How?

This type of tracking cookie remembers pertinent information about the user including past sessions/interests, login information, location, and language settings. The storage of this type of information enhances the user’s experience by eliminating the need for them to manually login each time they visit the website. Additionally, the user can easily see past purchases or saved items, and, if implemented, the website will promote other items, services, or suggestions related to the user’s browsing history.

In any case, tracking cookies aren’t invasive because they are merely small text files that silently collect data. The moral aspects of tracking cookies only become questionable when the collected data is misused.

Understanding the Legal Aspects of Tracking Cookies

While there are tracking cookies used to collect personal information from a user, these are illegal. That is why it’s crucial that advertisers receive the user’s consent to cookies, based on the General Data Protection Regulation.

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