The holiday season is here once again. When it comes to the holidays, there is one thing that most people can agree on and that is that cookies are delicious. While you may get tired of cookies in the near future there is another set of cookies that you have probably become tired of in more ways than one. Over the past year and a half every user of the Internet has been bombarded with messages and notifications that a website is using cookies and asking a user to accept or decline their use creating a cookie wall. You may have grown used to these yet don’t like them, but what is going on with these?

Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal Raisin and Snickerdoodles…Oh My!

We’ve profiled what cookies are before but in a nutshell they are used to monitor you and save certain information about you. Some of this is necessary as it could be information in a shopping cart or login credentials. These cookies are also the reason that you can visit one site and that you start to see advertisements for that site elsewhere. That can be both annoying and helpful, which one is up to you.

Cookies are used to track you so that is why when you visit, say Best Buy or Home Depot, it shows you the information for the local store. They keep you logged into a website after you close the web browser so you don’t have to re-enter the password. They are a necessary part of browsing the Internet but they can also be abused easily.

GDPR Taking A Bite Out Of The Cookie Wall

Following the implementation of GDPR in 2018 users of the Internet became inundated with websites posting their cookie policies and asking a user to accept of deny it before visiting the site. You could argue that this is more annoying than the emails that were received announcing changes to terms of service and other things. Most users click agree on these cookie policies and don’t think twice about it.

That is what these websites want. They know that most people don’t read the terms of service to begin with. These terms of service are a lengthy read and are hard to understand, so that should be no surprise. If you have ever tried to read a website’s terms of service you know what we’re talking about. GDPR was enacted to give consumers a better understanding and better control of what happens with their data online and to limit what companies can do with it. Cookies themselves are only mentioned in the legislation once but the industry seemed to take a better safe than sorry approach and the result is what you have seen.

Transparency And GDPR?

It is a good thing that these companies are being more transparent about their policies but people have to want to know and most just simply want to visit the site and move on. It is your data that they could potentially be packaging and selling and the more you know the better of a consumer you should be. But nothing is changing since most users are simply clicking agree and moving on and if accepting cookie use is necessary to being able to use the website it may run afoul of GDPR regulations anyway (in Dutch).

Using cookies is necessary for some websites so there is a ring of truth to the belief that enabling them and creating a so-called cookie wall is the price of entry for a site. Their use for e-commerce is necessary to the site functioning correctly for the user. For some sites though there will be little to no issue. In fact by declining cookies you will still be able to use the majority of sites on the Internet as they were intended. If you don’t need to log into the site or do something based off of your location there is no need to accept cookies.

Could Cookies Be The First Great Legal Issue With GDPR?

Since GDPR is still new there are a lot of legal issues that need to be ironed out. The fines imposed so far have been small, which have allayed many people’s fears over the legislation being heavy handed so far. This may be the first great legal challenge that arises from GDPR and it could change the Internet as we know it. Cookie use has existed seemingly as long as the Internet has and the web is built around using them. It will not be easy to make a sweeping change like eliminating the cookie wall and it will be very interesting to watch what goes on. 

Change will not come immediately. Even if a website’s cookie policy runs afoul of GDPR to fix it will require a change to the Internet. What could work better will need to be figured out and until that can be developed we may just have to live with the cookie wall whether we want to or not. We have managed to live with cookies this far, we can probably live with them for a few more years. Some believe that tech companies are playing a game of chicken with regulators and they are simply trying to see how much they can get away with or how much the bare minimum is to reach compliance.

So, take a bite of that chocolate chip or snickerdoodle and sit back and relax. Maybe grab a few of them and read the terms of service. Cookies are not going anywhere for the time being but by knowing what they do can help to keep your data just a little safer on the Internet. We could also be watching the beginning of a major change to the Internet as we know it.

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