The truth about cookies

Does anyone out there feel like the internet is somehow getting more frustrating? Are “cookie usage” dialogs getting in the way, or just bored of the “we care about your privacy” messages seeming less genuine before? Yeah, me too. What seemed like a great idea to require businesses to declare what data they are collecting has become a real pain and the beginning of some dark patterns across the web.

The two main issues that bother me are:

  • cookie popups that take up so much screen that the website is unusable until you read, accept and move on to the content
  • the “we collect forms of data, click here to manage what we store” and then you have to tap through many screens and find the secret option that does not result in enabling all options.

The problem here is that, despite what the website says, they want to collect your data. Now that it is illegal in many places to do so without permission many systems are designed to trick you, or frustrate you, into granting this permission (what I would call a dark pattern).

Combine all of this with the mysterious “required cookies” phenomenon – the idea that some type of data collection is unavoidable… and that leads to the big reveal:

There is no such thing as a required cookie

That’s right. No website (other than one that you have logged in to and want to allow “remember me”) really requires the cookie. It’s just a convenience (at best) for developers and for the most part the only way of ensuring their advertising revenue. This is true, a cookie is not required for a website to work – only for the site owners to track you, gather your data and provide more advert revenue to the owner of the site (or people they share the data with).

Remember how websites worked before cookies existed? (some may recall the “?jsessionid=” in URLs of the early 2000s) That’s right, there are other ways to pass around a session identifier that do not use your personal information or share your data with the big bad tech institutions. How did we find ourselves in a place where they manage to use new data protection laws to make the internet experience even worse for the end-user?

I have plans for how this could be improved, if you want to discuss what we can do to fix the internet please get in touch.

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