Should you accept cookies? 5 times you definitely shouldn’t
Alison Grace Johansen
June 13, 2023 4 min read
Learn why websites want you to accept cookies, whether you have to and should accept them, and what happens if you decline.
Is accepting cookies a bad thing? It depends on the website. It depends on who will gain access to your data and what they will do with it, along with whether declining cookies will affect your ability to use that site.
Keep in mind not all cookies work the same. Some cookies are placed by first parties, like the sites you visit, to help you navigate cleanly, set preferences, save items in a shopping cart, etc.
Other types of cookies are placed by third parties, like advertisers. Using dedicated privacy software like Norton AntiTrack can help keep your personal information and browsing activity private by blocking trackers and disguising your digital fingerprint.
Let’s take a look into why websites want you to accept cookies, whether you have to and should accept them, and what happens if you decline.
Why websites ask you to accept cookies
Websites have become more focused on asking you to accept cookies. The reason reflects a data privacy protection law that governs online data tracking and transparency.
A website owner’s noncompliance may result in fines. This potential legal violation has led to more websites sending cookie notifications to ensure they are in compliance.
Should you accept cookies?
There are reasons why you should or shouldn’t accept cookies. When making the decision, it’s helpful to understand two key questions.
Do you have to accept cookies? – The short answer is, no, you do not have to accept cookies. Rules like the GDPR were designed to give you control over your data and browsing history.
What happens if you don’t accept cookies? – The potential problem with refusing to accept cookies is that some website owners may not allow you to use their websites if you don’t accept their cookies. Another downside is that without acceptance, you may not receive the full user experience on certain websites. More on that, below.
3 times cookies can be helpful
In some scenarios, it can be useful for you to accept cookies. To understand why cookies can be helpful, it’s important to understand the data a cookie might contain about you. Here’s a list.
Unique user ID
Browsing habits and history
Personal preferences and interests
Number of times a website is visited
Time spent on a website
Account log-in information, including your username and password
Online identifiers like your location and IP address
Personal data like your phone number and address
Shopping cart items
Website access. The first advantage is simple: Without consenting to cookies, some websites won’t grant access.
Improved user experience. Cookies can be helpful because they help sites remember you. This memory can help improve your individual user experience. Why is this a good thing? They already know about you and can tailor your website experience to your interests — making your browsing experience quicker, more focused, and more helpful. This more personalized experience can be especially helpful when online shopping. For example, when you revisit a website, it could remember shopping cart items you haven’t yet purchased. Cookies can make the shopping process quicker, more convenient, and more successful.
Easy log-ins. Cookies saved on your web browser also can remember your log-in credentials. This can come in handy when repeatedly logging in to your go-to websites, especially if you sometimes forget your passwords.
5 times you shouldn’t accept or keep cookies
There are some scenarios where you might not want to accept or keep cookies. Here are five examples.
Unencrypted websites. You shouldn’t accept cookies when you’re on an unencrypted website — a site where the lock icon beside the website address is not locked. Why is this dangerous? If a website isn’t encrypted, there is no security to protect your data. This unsecure access may allow third parties like hackers to steal cookies from your browser, intercepting personal information you likely want to be kept private, like credit card and other private information. That can leave, you more vulnerable to online crimes like identity theft.
Third-party cookies. Not all cookies are the same. It’s a good idea to decline third-party cookies. If you don’t decline, the website could sell your browsing data to third parties. Sharing your personal information with third parties without giving you any control over it could also leave you vulnerable. For one thing, you don’t get to choose the third parties.
Slowed computer speed. Having new cookies stored in your browser over and over also could slow down your computer. Cookies occupy disk space, which can affect your computer’s speed.
Flagged cookies.Antivirus software may flag suspicious cookies, in which case you should not accept them (or you should delete them if you already have).
Deciding which cookies to accept and which to reject can be tricky, especially when you’re in a hurry to start browsing. Using dedicated privacy software like Norton AntiTrack will help mask your digital fingerprint and protect against invasive online tracking techniques. Plus, it includes an easy-to-use dashboard to keep you informed about tracking attempts. Get Norton AntiTrack and start browsing securely and confidently today.
Alison Grace Johansen is a freelance writer who covers cybersecurity and consumer topics. Her background includes law, corporate governance, and publishing.
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