This is Part 1 of a series on digital privacy…or the lack thereof
Apparently very few people like digital cookies. About 93% of American users wish to control their personal data but only 3% of them have an understanding of digital privacy laws(data from privacysavvy.com). And a Pew Research Center report found that 93% of Americans thought that the ability to control those who can access their data matters.
So why do companies collect all this data? Because it is profitable. The collection of user data is all about targeting ads at the corporate level. And it works. It can increase a company’s revenue by as much as 4% (data from privacysavvy.com).
While I can’t change the ad-driven economy, at least for now, I can, however, help increase the understanding of digital privacy laws.
Cookies — a primer
Let’s start with the basics: what are cookies?
According to Cookiepedia (yes, it is a thing)the are “pieces of data, normally stored in text files, that websites place on visitors’ computers to store a range of information, usually specific to that visitor — or rather the device they are using to view the site — like the browser or mobile phone.”
Cookies are necessary for websites to function and to make the experience more pleasant BUT…just like we have chocolate chips cookies and oatmeal raisin cookies, we have good and deceiving digital cookies.
These are the most common categories of cookies:
- Session Cookies — Browsers stores these cookies temporarily and they are destroyed when it is closed down. They will be still present if you simply navigate away. For example, the browser will store your login credential while you are using the site, and then delete it when you shut it down.
- Permanent Cookies — Your computer stores these cookies permanently, so they will be there even after you shut down the system. However, they are given an expiration date: once the date is reached, the cookie is destroyed. Sites, however, may replace the permanent cookies every time you visit the same website. Persistent cookies are also used to track visitor behavior as they use the site, and this practice is known as Web Analytics. It helps the site to improve by understanding user’s patterns of behavior
- Third-party Cookies — these are the type of cookies that are not quite as helpful to the customers. These cookies collect information about you, your browsing history, and many activities you perform online, and share with other companies to build up a “profile” that can be used to sell you advertising that “matches” your interests…or so they say. This is sometimes called behavioral advertising, or personalized marketing. This is why ads for the same product “follow” you from site to site. Besides the fact that personalized only means more of what you have looked at and therefore may not be tailored to your immediate interests at all, third-party cookies are usually well-hidden behind walls of text, or annoying popup banners, and grab more information about you than you ever intended, and sell it for profit. This is often seen as intrusive and an invasion of privacy by customers and often governments.
- Statistics or Analytics Cookies, also called Performance Cookies, record how you used a website. These can be both first-party or third-party, depending on who is looking at the data. For example, if the site uses Google Analytics (more than 80% of sites do), then it can be considered third-party since the data is sent to Google Below: An example of granular privacy choices: at least they are all off by default
Why should you care?
Many sites want you to believe that cookies, all cookies, are in your best interest and that most of the data is anonymous, especially in analytics, and that personalized advertisement will show you products you care about. Don’t let them fool you. All the data collected does not live in isolation: it gets aggregated and combined with public records, so your customer profile can be eerily accurate.
Data brokers, legally do this collection and organization of data, and then sell them to marketing companies. Think about the marketing list on steroids. How profitable is this business? In 2016, visualcapitalist.com pegged it at $467 yearly. Shouldn’t you get a share of it?
Do you say goodbye to your privacy forever??
We can’t realistically expect companies to stop collection immediately, even though some are doing their best to be transparent at least.
Fortunately, there are a few things YOU can do to stop these data collection starting today, and sometimes you can even ask to delete your data. It is not difficult, but unfortunately time consuming.
In part 2, we will talk about what you can do and who has your back