How To Make Sure Your Website Cookies Respect The Visitors’ Privacy

We all love cookies, right? They are a delicious snack and give a different experience if they are freshly baked. Unfortunately, they have now become the second most important things in our lives. 

Cookies are used by 41.5% of the total number of websites on the Internet. Cookies are useful for website owners and businesses as they help them understand customers better. 

However, ever since website cookies entered our lives, we, as consumers, have a looming threat on our heads about our privacy being in question. The question that arises is that should we really sacrifice our privacy and consider it as a by-product of surfing on the Internet? 

In this blog post, we’ll deep-dive into the question whether cookies respect the privacy of visitors. The second part explores how to make sure your website cookies respect the privacy of your visitors.

What are cookies and how do they work? 

First, let’s briefly talk about what cookies are and how they work. 

Let’s say you visit a website. That website has a login form. When you enter your username and password into the form and click “login”, the website will set a cookie on your computer. What this cookie does is it allows the website to remember that you are logged in, so that next time you visit the site, you won’t have to login again.

Let’s discuss the two types: first-party cookies and third-party cookies. 

First-party cookies are created by the website you are visiting and are used to improve productivity on that site. They are generally used to improve your browsing experience by remembering your preferences, login details, and other information such as name, telephone number and address. 

Third-party cookies are created by advertising companies and other external organizations and can be used to track your browsing habits across multiple sites. Websites do this in order to avail targeted advertisements to you.
Most browsers allow you to control how website cookies are used through the settings menu. Many websites are dictated by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to seek your consent before setting cookies. Osano explains the cookie laws in detail and provides a Cookie Consent Solution that is GDPR compliant.

When you enter a website, you might have noticed the pop up that appears at the bottom of the screen. 

However, some website cookies can pose a privacy risk as they can track your browsing habits and activities. You can usually choose to accept all cookies, reject all cookies, or only accept first-party cookies. We recommend only accepting first-party cookies as this will minimize the privacy risk posed by cookies. 

Why do we need to respect the privacy of our visitors? 

Well, to answer this question let’s go back thirty years. 

There were no websites. You go to a shopping store, the sales person greets you, asks you what you are looking for and based on your answers shows you the products. You might buy something from the store or not. But that is as far as it went. The store did not have any way of knowing if you came back to the store, what products you looked at, and whether you bought anything. 

Now imagine, before you buy the salesperson starts asking you questions, such as “Which shop did you go to before this one?”, “What products did you look at?”, “Where do you live?”, “What is your telephone number?”, etc. That would be really annoying, right?

You would probably think that the salesperson is being too personal and you might not want to shop at that store again.

Now, let’s fast forward to today. The advent of the internet has changed things dramatically. 
When you visit an ECommerce Website, the website can track your behavior with amazing accuracy. What you do on their site, what products you look at, and whether you add anything to your shopping cart but do not go to the check-out page. They can also track if you come back to the site later and make a purchase.

Your existing or potential customers trust you with their personal information. Just because websites can store this information easily, in comparison to a salesman, doesn’t mean that you stop respecting the privacy of the visitors. If you abuse this trust, there’s a high chance that they will stop visiting your website and you will lose their business. 

How can we make sure our cookies respect the privacy of our visitors? 

As an organization or website owner, take note of the following things to make sure your website cookies respect the privacy of your visitors: 

  • Provide a clear and conspicuous notice that explains what information is being collected and why. 
  • Get the visitor’s consent before collecting any personal information. 
  • Ensure that the information collected is only ever used for the purpose for which it was collected. 
  • Make sure that the information is only ever shared with those who need it. 
  • Make sure that the information is securely stored and not accessible to unauthorized persons. 
  • Make it easy for visitors to withdraw their consent. They should be able to do this easily and with just a few clicks.
  • Allow the visitor to disable their cookies if they wish. To showcase that you’re a responsible company, provide information on the website explaining how to disable cookies. 
  • Keep track of changes to our Privacy Policy and notify visitors of these changes.
  • Provide a way for visitors to contact us if they have any questions or concerns about their privacy. 
  • Follow data privacy laws such as GDPR & CCPA. 
    • The GDPR dictates that businesses provide a clear and conspicuous notice about the use of cookies on their website. They also require that businesses get consent from visitors before collecting any personal information through website cookies.
    • The CCPA requires that consent can be assumed unless told otherwise. The best practice is to clearly state on the website that cookies are being used and to provide a way for visitors to opt-out if they do not want their data collected. This way you can cater to the audience that is unaware of CCPA laws. 
  • Regularly review your security measures to ensure that they are effective in protecting the privacy of our visitors’ personal information. 
  • Make sure your website is SSL encrypted to protect the customer’s data.
  • Prevent your company from data breaches by ensuring that all your employees are trained in data security and privacy best practices.
  • Allow the visitor to access their own information and correct it if necessary.
  • If a visitor rejects your cookie, do not continue storing their personal information unethically.

Keep in mind that cookie consent is not a one-time thing. People can and should be allowed to change their decision later on. 

By following these tips, ensure that your website cookies respect the privacy of your visitors. Build trust with them so that they will continue to visit your website again and again. 

Summing up

It’s important to know the computer fundamentals in the contemporary era. Cookies are one of the fundamentals in the world of websites. This article explained what website cookies are, their importance to websites and their impact on consumers. 

As a website owner, make sure that your cookies respect the privacy of your visitors so that they keep trusting you. As long as there is trust, your customer-base will increase and you will be successful. 

Let’s summarize the methods to build trust: 

  • Providing a clear notice explaining what data is being collected and why, getting consent before collecting any personal data. 
  • Ensuring that only those who need the data have access to it. 
  • Allowing visitors to reject cookies if they wish. 

Keep in mind that if you give them a choice, you are respecting your visitor’s privacy.

As a consumer, it is essential to be aware of the privacy risks posed by cookies. Remember to only accept first-party cookies in your browser settings menu and delete cookies if you are not comfortable with the site having this information. At any point, you can review and change the privacy settings on your computer to better protect yourself.

In short, by understanding what cookies are, how they work and their implications, we can all take steps to protect our privacy in the online world.