What are cookies in online marketing? Should we fear them? Who really needs them? Neither Nigella nor Jamie will give you the answers.
Cookies are simply text files containing small amounts of information, stored in a user's web browser. Cookies can be used for authentication purposes, storing information on user preferences (e.g., regarding a website), shopping cart, they can identify a session on the server, etc.
A cookie contains one or more „name – value” pairs that store information, which can be encrypted. A cookie is sent to the browser from the web server in HTTP header. Later, when the browser connects again to that server, it sends back the same, unchanged cookie.
A cookie file as a text (not a code) is not executable. It cannot replicate and cannot carry viruses. Cookies, however, can be used for spying on users, because of the way in which they are created and uploaded by the browser. Antivirus software may prompt users about threats to their privacy resulting from storing cookies. We should keep in mind though, that no one is interested in tracking a single user, with the exception of cash backs, which need to monitor your transactions in order to calculate your reward.
Most internet browsers allow to accept or decline cookies and to determine how long a cookie will be stored. Declining cookies may result in missing a reward in affiliate programs.
When we visit a web page, it can store cookies in our browser. If the web page contains components from other web pages, stored on other servers (e.g. publishing shops presenting articles downloaded from advertisers through Data Feed), those web pages can also send their cookies to our browser. They are called „third party cookies”.
Let’s examine a following scenario:
Conclusion: web page B knows what pages you visit (as long as they contain ads of web page B). It seems most certain, that with the vast amount of information collected by cookies, no one is interested or has time to track a single user. Much more interesting conclusions can be drawn by looking at this data form a broader perspective. For example, 30% of the users visiting web page A, also visits web page Z. As you can see, these actions pose no threat to the user safety on the network. In affiliate programs, cookies usually store information like: partner ID, date (to calculate the amount of time between a click and conversion), creation ID (for effectiveness evaluation), expiration date (how long a cookie should be stored). Cookies do not pose a real threat to our privacy, so we should not fear them. We shouldn’t decline or delete cookies, because most of the affiliate systems use transaction tracking methods based on cookies.