Taming Web Cookies: Reclaiming your privacy or not?

The interest is such an interesting space, it is become a universe of its own, complete with its own netizentry, rules and both written and unwritten constituency. Whether it has boundaries or not is up to your own judgement, but mostly it is believed to be border-less.

Is it a utopia, a universe of tranquil peace and privacy? Well that is hugely debatable, especially because of something called a cookie(s) which we shall but briefly try to debunk. Way before it took center stage, someone called it an huge conduit of unfiltered information, much like a sewer.

Cookies and online privacy

Matter of fact is that if you are reading this, you are part of this universe and as its netizen, you get to ‘control’ some of what you want to see or not, you get to exist in your own silo depending on how good you are with the privacy settings, so lets start the journey to ‘control’ this space to be more habitable.

Who/what are cookies?

Well according to some simple definition, A HTTP cookie (also called web cookie, Internet cookie, browser cookie, or simply cookie) is a small piece of data sent from a website and stored on the user’s computer by the user’s web browser while the user is browsing.

Cookies were initially designed or programmed to be a reliable mechanism for websites to remember select information (such as items added in the shopping cart in an online store) or to record the user’s browsing activity (including clicking particular buttons, logging in, or recording which pages were visited in the past). This makes the job of the user way easy or so it seems.

Cookies also could be set to remember arbitrary pieces of information that the user previously entered into form fields such as names, addresses, passwords, and credit card numbers.

Enter creepy targeted Ads

Ever experienced those very precise almost creepy ads on your timeline or browser?, Well when you visit a certain website that can collect your information, you end up getting very personally tailored ads and sometimes, Ok every time this can be very annoying and intrusive, it seems like someone just entered the bedroom while you were dressing up.

Everyone looks for a smart way to stop them, because every time you surf the Internet, cookies remember where you’ve been. Now this info is then collected by third-party ad networks which pair up with those websites that track wherever you’ve been, precisely. The history and data collected is then shared with advertisers who then figure out which ads you’d be most interested in. You will then be bombarded with ads you’re more likely to click and your clicks give those companies online traffic, which translated to more business prospects.

How to stop them, opt out.

Let’s start with Facebook, gives reasons why each ad is picked for you. When you see a sponsored Facebook post, click the little down arrow on the top right of the post. Select “Why am I seeing this ad?” and the site will give you a breakdown of what the company was trying to target. Perhaps you liked a similar product, song, car or maybe it’s just that you’re in a certain age group and state.

However you can turn the tracking off the ads if they creep you out.

Go to Settings > Ads > Ad preferences.

With that done, you can browse around, choose what you want Facebook to know, turn off all Internet-based ads when you’re on Facebook and inform the site not to share your ad preferences with other third-party companies.

On Google? Google’s ad tracking is also as weirdly creepy as Facebook’s. Here’s how to disable it. Users that don’t want to be tracked in this way can visit the activity controls section of their account page on Google, uncheking the box marked “Include Chrome browsing history and activity from websites and apps that use Google services”.

Location?

Location is actually of the factors that could used to suggest people you know and it is important to always turn your location off, depending on your device, manufacturer and the version of Android it’s using. You can go to Settings > Apps > Facebook > Permissions > Location > Off. For iOS users go to Settings > Apps > Facebook > Permissions > Location > Off.

These settings are important for you to always check up when using online services.

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