What are cookies?
Cookies are small pieces of data, stored in text files, that are stored on your computer, mobile phone or other device when websites are loaded in a browser. They are widely used to ‘remember’ you and your preferences, either for a single visit (through a ’session cookie’) or for multiple repeat visits (using a ‘persistent cookie’). Cookies may be set by the site that you are visiting (known as ‘first party cookies’), or by other websites who serve up content on that site (‘third party cookies’).
Both websites and HTML emails may also contain other tracking technologies such as “web beacons” or “pixels.” These are typically small transparent images that provide us with statistics, for similar purposes as cookies. They are often used in conjunction with cookies, though they are not stored on your computer in the same way. As a result, if you disable cookies, web beacons may still load, but their functionality will be restricted.
Cookies are used for a number of different purposes. Some cookies are necessary for technical reasons; some enable a personalized experience for both visitors and registered users; and some allow the display of advertising from selected third party networks. Some of these cookies may be set when a page is loaded, or when a visitor takes a particular action (clicking the “like” or “follow” button on a post, for example). Many of the used cookies only set if you are a registered WordPress.com user (so you don’t have to log in every time, for example), while others are set whenever you visit one of our websites, irrespective of whether you have an account.
That’s some kind of a standard theoretical definition. Let’s try it in practice!
How you could find what cookies a site uses?
If this made you curios about cookies, here is a a nice link that explains how to check what the cookies used by a specific site: https://www.iubenda.com/en/help/262-come-identificare-quali-cookie-sono-installati-dal-tuo-sitoapp
For the purpose of this exercise I’ll simply adapt the steps for the Chrome browser:
- Open a private window and type the URL of the site you want to analyze;
- To open the console, click on the toolbar:
More tools > Developer Tools
- Once the console is open, you can view the cookies installed by the site by clicking on the “Application” tab at the top right of the console and then Cookies section.
If you are even more curios you can do the same steps when you’re already logged in.
BIG SURPRISE – I didn’t lie when I said that “Many of the cookies we use are only set if you are a registered WordPress.com user”
The used cookies can be devided by their purspose as it follows:
- Functional Cookies – strictly necessary
- Security Cookies
- Analytics and Performance Cookies
- Advertising Cookies
- Third party Cookies
These guys make a dam good job describing their used cookies https://automattic.com/cookies/
You can read more on the topic by starting with the Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTTP_cookie
WordPress does have an attempt to describe the cookies they use, but it’s rather a poor one. In their defense, they do say in the beginning that “This page is a partial work in progress.” and they can’t cover there all the Plugins in the world. https://codex.wordpress.org/WordPress_Cookies
OK, I could actually make a resume from all the information that I got from the web on cookies and fully document it here, in a page you will most likely never read until the end of it. That’s not my goal.
- I did make you aware of the subject and the theoretical concepts behind it,
- I did provided you a practical method to actually check the cookies we use and
- I provided you additional links to follow if you become passionate about the subject.
The truth is, I don’t need your personal data and don’t plan to use it or sell it in any way. If you don’t want to provide it, I respect that and offer you the option of not agreeing with the site’s terms. If you have provided it in the past and request for it to be deleted, be sure I’m going to do that. “And nothing else matters” as the song says.