Process Post #9: Cookies, Targeted Advertising, And Data Trails

Everyone has heard of the term “cookies,” but how much do people actually know about what cookies are or what they do? When a person visits a website, they may find a disclaimer at the bottom of the screen telling the user that the site uses cookies to enhance their online experience by making it more smooth, convenient, and personalized. On the other hand, most websites don’t even disclose that they are using cookies. Although, it doesn’t make a difference because these websites have been collecting their digital data from the moment they entered the website and will continue to do so until the moment they leave the website. Pieces of data are called cookies, which contain information about the user’s login, browsing habits, and preferences. This may seem fine if you believe that the website is storing all this to help us, but I am skeptical about a lot of things, and this is one of them.

I hate when a website adds an ‘accept and close’ button to their disclaimers to give the user the illusion of choice when there is none. Furthermore, I hate it when a website tells a user that they can consult with their absurdly long privacy policy to learn more about their use of cookies fully knowing that people won’t read it. In “Digital breadcrumbs: the data trail we leave behind us,” the podcaster remarks that we “willingly” make ourselves traceable and trackable through our app usage and online activities, but again, this implies that we had a choice and the knowledge to make a decision when we do not. It’s either I use the app or website, or I don’t use it; there’s really no way out. If I use website A, website A will sell my cookies to website B, and then I’ll start to see ads for website A’s products on website B and later, everywhere as my digital data passes through a network of websites. Websites will also use my information to design algorithms to predict what will keep me engaged on their page to feed me more ads. The fact that websites do this is creepy and invasive. My digital data is not a means of profit.

I disapprove of data trails, regardless of if they improve my web experience. In the words of Hossein Derakhshan (2015), “what are we exchanging for efficiency?” The answer is privacy and control. In his article “The Web We Have to Save,” Derakhshan expresses his concerns for the increasing surveillance, online and offline, and about how businesses and organizations will use this information against us. I share the same sentiments. Whether it’s to gather information to develop more suitable content or to keep my readers engaged, I’d rather use ethical methods that ask for consent, like web surveys, to let them know they do and should have a choice.

Work Cited
Derakhshan, Hossein. (2015). “The Web We Have to Save.” July 2015. Retrieved from:

Cover Image by Jose Francisco Fernandez Saura via Pexels

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