Each time you visit a website, the first thing you notice is the cookie acceptance window that the website uses. You often accept them without paying much attention to them, because you simply want to use the website and not waste time on additional reading. But, what exactly do you accept and how can it affect your online experience?

To better understand how cookies affect your experience, you first need to find out what cookies are.

Cookies (cookies / HTTP cookies) are small text files that are sent from the websites you visit and are stored on your device (computer, tablet or mobile phone). Cookies are used to facilitate the operation of the website, to remember your activities and preferences, or to provide personalized content on the website. When they visit the website again, they read these text files to help identify the user.

Cookies can be cookies set by the owner of the website (first-party cookies) or cookies set by third parties, i.e. persons with whom the owner of the website is in direct or indirect cooperation (third-party cookies), as Google Analytics. They can also be divided into persistent cookies or session cookies.

Image by Christoph Meinersmann from Pixabay

Persistent cookies are those that are stored on your device permanently or for the duration specified by the cookie itself and are used each time you visit a particular website, while session cookies allow websites to link the user’s actions during one session. Each session starts when the user opens a web browser window (such as Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.) and ends when it closes.

Cookies collect a variety of information. At their core, they are intended for three purposes: session management, personalization, and monitoring. Through session management, cookies “remember” which part of the website you are visiting or which information you are most interested in. For example, if you open a news portal, cookies will remember whether you spend more time on business news, sports news or political news. Thus, during your next visit to that website, the most obvious, i.e. the most dominant will be the news categories that you have read the most or that you have clicked the most.

Personalization is the customization of ads according to the activities of the user that are remembered through cookies. For example, if you visit a pet food website, most of your ads will be related to animals or pet food.

Websites follow activities or categories that users access. Online shopping sites, for example, track what products you choose and store that information, as well as products in your shopping cart for easier shopping, but also as a way to advertise the same or similar products that you would like.

Because cookies collect information about the user, such as their IP address, location, etc., and also serve as an identifier for the user, the Law on Personal Data Protection considers this information like personal data and obliges the owners of the website pages to request explicit consent from users before placing cookies on their devices. In addition, the owners of the websites are obliged to point out the cookie policy on the websites, where they will transparently explain what types of cookies they use, as well as the purpose of each cookie.

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They can distinguish between the strictly necessary cookies, i.e. the types of cookies that allow more efficient use of the website – if accepted – and optional cookies, which would be used to collect additional information about the user, but which the user can choose not to accept, i.e. use. The consequence in the case of non-acceptance of cookies would be a decrease in the quality of the user experience when using the website.

Then why be careful? That is, why is it important to read the cookie policy carefully on the websites you use?

The cookie policy contains all information about who, to what extent, in what way and for what purposes uses your data. As explained above, in addition to the efficiency of running a website, cookies can be used for a variety of purposes, such as targeted marketing, and database collection, and some may even contain computer viruses. Particular care should be taken when accessing websites that require more personal information for their use, such as name and surname, address, telephone number, e-mail address and the like. In some cases, these websites or third parties that place cookies on your devices may also exchange or sell your information by you unknowingly accepting their cookie terms and policies and allowing them to access it without interruption.

Therefore, one way to protect yourself from these side effects when using websites is to carefully read the cookie policy on each website and see for what purposes your information is used. Furthermore, if you want to delete the already accepted cookies, each browser gives such an opportunity at any time (For more information on how to delete the already accepted cookies, click on the following link). In case your personal data is still used without your consent, i.e. misused (you see ads, offers, etc. from websites without your approval), you can contact the personal data protection officer directly at the owner of the website of the perpetrator of this abuse, whose information should be posted on the website you have visited. Maybe the contact email is displayed and you can report this case to the Personal Data Protection Agency of the Republic of North Macedonia or to the Sector for Computer Crime and Digital Forensics at the Ministry of Interior of the RNM.

The main purpose of cookies is the more efficient and easier use of websites. However, because they collect users’ personal data, they may be misused or used for other purposes. Therefore, it is very important that each user be informed about the purpose of each cookie and with their consent to fully and safely manage the manner and purpose for which his personal data is used when surfing the Internet.


Author: Nikola Dimitrov, MA