Why do websites ask me to accept ‘cookies’? What are they and what happens if I don’t accept?
A cookie is small text file that some websites store on your PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone’s browser when you visit them. Cookies are a bit like a tag, or ring round a bird’s leg – they contain information about you.
When you ‘accept’ cookies in a browser such as Chrome, Edge or Safari , you are giving that website permission to track information about you, such as your browsing activity, your search history, or login details. The cookie can even detect all the technical data about the browser and type of device you are using. The sites then use this information to customise the page and track your browsing behaviour.
This can be helpful. For example, this can allow a weather website to remember your geographic location, to customise a weather report for you. Cookies can remember your username and password for you (if you allowed the website to do so), to save you from having to enter those details every time you use that site. Cookies are also a big help to the website owner – they can allow them to analyse internet traffic, customise banner ads, store items in your shopping cart, as well as many other things.
What happens if I don’t accept cookies from a website?
The latest data protection regulation aims to protect your privacy by making it mandatory to notify you about the cookies that a website would like to tag you with. In some cases, you can’t refuse certain of these cookies if you want to use the site. In other cases, you can ‘switch these off’ in order to be more private.
You need to be selective about which websites you allow to give you a cookie. Cookies are not really a threat for viruses or malware, but you may feel for example that tracking your visits to certain websites, or having them remember your login information, compromise your privacy. That is a personal decision you can make, site by site.
You may find that if you don’t ‘accept’ or give consent to certain cookies on a website, then that website may not function properly. On other websites, you may have no choice BUT to accept, if you want to visit it. In other instances, when given the choice, some people choose to set their preferences, rather than ‘accept all cookies’. This means they can ‘turn off’ or not accept the cookies that track their viewing behaviour.
Can I get rid of them later, if I do accept?
Temporary cookies are deleted when you close your browser and are just used to help you in that session. Permanent cookies remain on your computer and activate the next time you go to that site. Sometimes the cookies remain there for years.
On their own each permanent cookie is harmless to your computer, but over time, they can take their toll on its performance. As the number of permanent cookies accumulates on the internet browser on your device, they can affect its speed in accessing websites.
All internet browsers provide a way of deleting cookies by allowing you to delete them from a storage area known as a cache. If you want to delete cookies on a particular device, follow the links below. (NB we are not responsible for the content of external sites).
Deleting these cookies can lead to faster overall internet access. But if you delete a cookie that is storing and remembering your username and password for a particular website, you will have to re-enter those details again, the next time you visit that site.
How to clear cookies on an Android phone or tablet
How to clear cookies in Google Chrome
How to clear cookies on iPhone and iPad Safari
How to clear cookies in Safari on a Mac
How to clear cookies in Windows 10
How to clear cookies in Firefox