Managing cookies and privacy policies

Managing cookies and privacy policies

Have you ever wondered why the internet is so tailored towards individuals or why online ads are so specific to your own interests or hobbies? When we search the internet, we are presented with many opportunities to tailor our experience, which can be equal parts helpful and unwanted. Whether we expect it or not, there are things you can do to manage it better. In this article we look primarily at how to manage cookies and privacy policies.

Just what I’m looking for

Ads and other online suggestions can very quickly relate to a user’s search history or online activity. It can be an incredibly useful way to filter content more specific to an individual and tailor their experience more towards their own interests. Despite this, tailored suggestions can be unwanted and may even appear intrusive or raise questions around a user’s privacy. As an example, if you search for a certain type of car online, you may find car ads or special offers on your browser or social media the next day. Even if those ads are useful, have you ever wondered why they appear?

Accepting and ticking the box – how can companies obtain personal data?

When visiting a website or signing up to something new online, we have probably all brazenly accepted an agreement or request without properly reading them. After all, they’re incredibly long and we don’t have time to sift through pages and pages of something we probably already know is standard jargon. While they may seem harmless, a lot of these agreements are looking to obtain personal data which can then go on to influence our online ads and other suggested content. Essentially, if a user is experiencing tailored ads, then they have probably agreed to it. Personal data can be very easily obtained with consent, primarily through two ways:

Ticking privacy policy agreements

Most websites will have a privacy policy and they are usually presented to us when we try and purchase or sign up to something online. Are they long? Yes! Are they boring? Probably. Are they important? Yes! If you accept a privacy policy then you have given consent to that site and may have agreed for them to use your personal data for tailored ads. 

Accepting cookie requests

Websites can also ask you to accept cookies when you first visit them. Unlike privacy policies, you may have the option to choose which cookies you want to accept. For example, third party cookies allow websites to show you tailored ads on different websites e.g. Amazon ads will appear on social media. Cookies can also help websites remember you, from log in details to remembering online activity.

Most cookies aren’t harmful, and can be a general requirement, however some cookies can be seen to breach privacy, such as ‘tracking cookies’ which track browsing activity and history. These types of cookies can offer a streamlined online experience, but they might be the ones that we may want to consider, before accepting.

Managing tailored content – how to manage personal data

Although it may seem complicated, many preferences can be edited from our own privacy and security settings across our devices. A lot of platforms such as social media apps will show you how your data is being used from ads, to location tracking and even microphone access. Options will vary but a lot of the time, you have a choice of how you want your data to be managed. This could be by turning off personalised ads altogether or hiding specific unwanted ones. Take the time to look at your security settings and see exactly what’s going on with your data.

For future practice, carefully consider how you approach privacy policies and cookie requests. Make sure you are fully aware of what is being asked and although it may take more time, you may feel more comfortable with accepting what you fully understand. Despite this, if you want to disable cookies on your browser, you can find out how to do this across some of the most used browsers below

If you want to know more about this and other security related topics, you can take a look at our training options from Edtesa, which can equip your business and staff with the latest knowledge around staying safe online.

Edtesa Training

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