Tech & Rights

5 Things You Need to Know About Cookies (And How They Ruin Your Personal Life)

Did you ever have to choose between chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies? How about what you tell people about yourself and what you choose to keep private? And what do cookies and privacy have in common?

by LibertiesEU
(Image: N i c o l e/Flickr CC)

1. The Cookie Monster

Adults have their own Cookie Monster, and it’s nothing like the googly-eyed glutton of our youth. And Señor Cookie Monster isn’t lovable. He’s a thief.

Of course, there’s no actual monster lurking unseen across the interwebs. But the current online advertising system, created by Google and the Interactive Advertising Bureau – Europe (IAB), makes the information about you, collected by cookies, available to advertisers. That’s right – companies are able to see countless details about your private life. What’s the life-saving cause, you may ask? To sell you stuff.

2. Why are we talking about “cookies”?

While you’re on your favorite webpage – or any other page – what you do is being logged by things called cookies.

A cookie is a line of code that a website places on people’s web browsers to identify the users when they return later – or to serve them ads elsewhere online. Cookies contain information about a person’s habits online – articles they read, things they buy, health issues they browse and more. Pretty personal information, right? If not extremely private stuff we wouldn’t want shared with anyone.

3. Your favorite website

Okay, you've visited your favorite webpage for only a second. But already, your activities are being tracked. This information is stolen, shared and used to sell ad space through the online advertising system known as real-time bidding.

4. Going once, going twice…

What is real-time bidding? It’s basically an auction – your private information is shared with lots of companies, and they bid for the right to show you an ad. And they’re fast: a real-time bidding auction for the advertising space on a webpage all happens in the milliseconds that it takes for the page to load.

5. There’s that coffee machine again

With your personal information sucked up from the page you were just on, as soon as you open a new webpage, you see an ad for the coffee machine you just searched for. Or maybe an ad for dog food. Whatever advertisers think will interest you.

So, what can you do about it?

STOP EATING COOKIES! Just kidding, have a bunch! And protect your private life while you're at it.

Sign our campaign here – it takes less than a minute – and tell your friends, too. Tell Google and IAB to change real-time bidding and to leave you and your searches be.

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