Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash
Over the years, cookies have become an essential element of the internet. Even have become the most used method in identifying the users online, providing a personalized browsing experience.
But users’ constant concern for privacy and the introduction of laws like the GDPR urges website owners to educate people on what a cookie really is, what it is used for, and how it works.
Cookies may track log-in details, website visits, and products checked and added to the shopping cart. Even after you leave the website, cookies can remember your information and even store your data.
Because of their inherent capability, cookies are used to carry out advertising processes like customer profiling and retargeting. These cookies are called third-party cookies.
What are third-party cookies? Let us understand further by looking closely at the definition.
Third-party cookies are cookies created by other websites that are not the website you are visiting. These are cookies integrated by a different domain name other than the domain name or website from which the cookie is encountered.
Third-party cookies are usually placed on a website through scripts or tags for advertising purposes. By adding the third-party website’s tags to a web page, advertisers can track users across different platforms they visit.
Third-party cookies work as a tracker that follows users as they continue to surf different web pages. Even if you close the web browser after surfing, the cookies are not eliminated. It can follow you to other websites you visit unless you delete your browsing history.
Third-party cookies are commonly used for online advertising. They are used by advertisers, marketers, and social media platforms to promote brands, drive conversions, and grow the business.
Whenever you visit a website, you can immediately tell that it is running third-party cookies if it is serving you ads. Once you visit a website with third-party cookies, it will automatically serve you ads about the previous sites you visited or even ads that you previously clicked.
You can view third-party cookies at work when you visit a website, say, an eCommerce website. You browse some of its products, but you decide not to buy it yet.
A few days later, you log in to Facebook. You notice an ad about the eCommerce website you once visited before. You wonder why they are so updated that they know what you did online the last time.
That’s how clever the third-party cookies algorithm is.
First and third-party cookies have similar purposes, which are to track user behavior. But they mainly differ on who created the cookies and how they collect and use data.
A first-party cookie is a normal cookie set or created by the website you are currently visiting. It is directly stored by the website you visit.
This type of cookie allows website owners to collect analytics data and execute other useful duties that provide a good user experience.
With first-party cookies, a user is usually required to sign in to the website. The browser then saves the data file to the user’s computer under the domain or website being visited. If the first-party cookies are blocked, the user would have to sign every time they visit the website.
With a lot of people requiring data privacy from website owners, are third-party cookies evil? Are they a security risk?
Just like with normal cookies, third-party cookies are not really bad. The purpose of creating third-party cookies is not to pose security risks but to provide a good user experience by serving relevant information to users through ads.
Third-party cookies are beneficial not only to business owners who want to close a sale but also to customers looking for something. With third-party cookies, businesses will be able to determine the customers' needs and provide the appropriate solution to their problems.
While third-party cookies may be helpful to some, some users see them as a threat to their privacy. Some people find the cookies creepy, following them anywhere they go online.
A lot of people complain about third-party cookies as an invasion of their privacy. It led to creating privacy laws like CCPA and GDPR, which allow users to have control over their browsing activities, especially on the cookies tracking them.
Under the protection of the existing privacy laws, users now choose whether to allow cookies to follow them or not when visiting a certain website. Users are also protected against potential data breaches.
Read further: How to check cookies used by a website?
While browsers like Firefox and Safari automatically block the third-party cookies, Google Chrome still enables these cookies by default, although they have already announced to block those cookies in 2022.
To restrict third party cookies from tracking your online activity, you can change your Google Chrome browser settings by going to Privacy and Security. There you have the option to block all cookies or third-party cookies only.
Third-party cookies benefit both advertisers and customers. Understanding how it works in advertising technology is critical to getting a better hold on online advertising and privacy.