Learn all about cookies tracking (and how to stop it)

Nwachukwu Glory Last updated: October 31, 2022 Read time: 20 minutes Disclosure

This extensive guide is an A-Z booklet on cookies tracking and how you can block it on browsers alongside effective methods to stop it.

Sneak peek at cookie tracking

Cookies – tiny bits of text files – store various users’ information generated during internet surfing via web browsers. Website servers mostly drop these cookies in your browser, which remain stored there, and send back the collected data. The websites then use these cookies to streamline your browsing experience upon subsequent visits. Nonetheless, cookie tracking is also a favorite practice of websites, adversaries, hackers, spies, and other third parties. Thus, it threatens the users’ online privacy and secure web browsing. This guide elaborates all the details of cookies alongside the best possible workarounds to stop them.

You may have heard of cookie tracking without fully understanding what it is all about. Cookies are tiny bits of code that run on JavaScript, saved on the user’s web browsers. Government and intelligence agencies use it for surveillance.

The malicious actors available on the internet even use it to hack online users. At the same time, companies use cookies to track website users’ activities to personalize marketing content.

Marketing practices have drastically changed over the years, and digital marketing has come to replace traditional marketing. It means many organizations now deploy cookies and browser fingerprinting to monitor and study web users’ behaviours and preferences.

Cookies are intrusive, and they gain access to your personal information and send feedback to the tracker. Cookies tracking has caused many privacy concerns worldwide because it is of the easiest and most efficient ways of tracking people on the internet.

Cookies can track you down no matter the browser type you use, the device you have, and your ISP. However, this article will show you effective ways on how to protect yourself from cookie tracking.

We will explain how companies monitor your browsing behaviour with cookies. How they monitor your search preferences, store personal information about you, such as your login credentials, and so much more. And then, we will talk about how to stop them—everything step-by-step.

What are cookies?

Cookies are online tools that companies use to track internet users through their web browsers. It is not the only tracking tool, but it is one of the most efficient out there.

They are lightweight text files that store various user information types gathered from the user’s web browser. These tiny bits of test files are used to customize your browsing experience, collect information for marketing, and track the time spent on a web page. They know the sites you visit and the number of time you spend on each site, and they can also store personal details about you.

Aside from storing the websites you visit, cookies also take notes of your clicks and inputs. Some cookies would store your information on your web browser, while others would send back your information to the website server (External). Organizations also use cookies to make suggestions. For example, a news website would take note of the article categories you view to make further recommendations to you.

The role of website servers in cookies tracking

Website servers would typically give your browser a cookie and then mark it as your digital identity. Your browser will send back that cookie to the server whenever you revisit the site.

That is the mechanism deployed by the website server to keep track of your activities for many years. The servers would continue updating your information and use it to provide personalized web pages for you.

So what is digital tracking?

what is digital tracking
(Unsplash)

Digital tracking of internet users is a pervasive and intrusive phenomenon. The strategies adopted for capturing digital footprints are becoming very sophisticated.

Let us give you a broad overview of digital tracking and how cookies are the primary tools digital trackers adopt.

Digital tracking is the means adopted to collect data points of internet users from multiple websites and pages. Cookies play a significant role there as they use identifiers that are generated on the web browser to create a fingerprint for the user.

A cookie is also known as an HTTP cookie, an internet cookie, a web cookie, and sometimes also referred to as a magic cookie (more on all this a bit later below).

It receives information from the user’s browser and sends it back to the creators without altering anything. Some sites use automatic cookies that deploy on your web browser without your consent. Others would inform you about the cookie and ask for permission.