Do you know if your favorite websites are tracking you with cookies? If you answered in the negative, you might want to try a cookie bot. Cookie bots are essentially code-scanning web applets (mini-applications) that sift through lines of HTML code to gain insights into what cookies are used by the websites you visit. The bots record the details and present the findings in a digested format.
Cookie Script makes it easy. Just type in any web URL on the cookie-script.com home page and our cookie scanner bot will get to work. If you’ve forgotten what cookies are all about, don’t worry; we’ve put together a primer for casual web users and this information is detailed down below.
Website Cookies… Explained
They go by a variety of names (browser cookies, HTTP cookies, etc.) but they all mean one thing: a small packet of data websites store on your computer, smartphone, or tablet. Cookies create a custom-tailored experience as you browse websites. For instance, a website may use a certain theme when you visit or auto-complete your username to make it easier to sign on. These are just a few of the instances of how a website may use your cookie information.
Ever wonder how your favorite websites remember you each time you visit? You can thank cookies for that. Are you ever amazed to see ads pop up for certain products you’ve expressed some level of interest in buying? Ah, yes… you can also thank cookies for that.
Here’s how cookies work. When you visit a webpage, you are essentially downloading code that is rendered through a web browser. Cookies, on the other hand, are packets of data that are downloaded in the background and stored in your browser’s preferences folder. The next time you visit a particular website, the server uploads the relevant cookie to deliver a customized web experience. Cookies can be incredibly useful, but they also serve as a “gold mine” to advertisers.
The Types of Website Cookies
There are three common types of website cookies: session cookies, persistent cookies, and third-party cookies. Let's further explain what these cookies are and how they are used:
Session cookies. Session cookies are the kind that users find to be the most helpful. To understand their value, let's give an example of what happens when a session cookie doesn't work. Have you ever been shopping online, adding item after item to your cart, then at checkout you discover your cart is empty? This is an example of a session cookie failing. Session cookies, as the name implies, track selections for the duration of your session, making it possible to move from page to page while saving your selections.
Third-party cookies. Third-party cookies also referred to as “tracking cookies” and “ad cookies” are the most irksome to regulators and privacy advocates. These are the type of cookies that collect your browsing history and then sell this information to advertising and marketing agencies.
Here’s an example of how this process works: Let's say you express some interest in a particular sweater, so you click on the product page, but then leave the page without making a purchase. Hours, maybe days later, you might see this same sweater pop up in small ads as you navigate the web.
Persistent cookies. Persistent cookies are those that help personalize your online experience. Let's say you visit a website and choose a language or select the box that asks whether you want to save your login details. These are the types of options that are saved within persistent cookies. Without persistent cookies, websites would treat you as a new visitor each time you visited the website.
Persistent cookies are stored for the longest durations since a vast majority of users want to have their preferences loaded upon visit certain websites.
What’s the Controversy with Cookies?
Cookies in and of themselves aren't bad, per se; cookies can't be used to hack your device, steal your identity, and drain your bank account. Although, cookies can reveal quite a bit about your viewing habits, which does raise privacy concerns. In response, some countries have adopted cookie consent privacy laws such as the GDPR, "Cookie Directive," and the ePrivacy Regulation (currently in the draft stage).
Aren’t I Protected by Opt-Out or “Do Not Track” Features?
Not every country has passed regulations that protect the privacy of web users. There is also the reality that a vast majority of individuals do not actually read opt-in/opt-out notices and have become apathetic to these prompts. And, if you ask those who do take the time to read these notices, you might find they are hard-pressed to explain exactly what they are agreeing to in the consent disclosure. For these reasons, you might want to try Cookie Script’s free cookie bot tool, so you know exactly what type of cookies are being used by the websites you visit. This tool is free to use and is available on the Cookie Script home page.
Why You Should Run a Cookie Bot
A cookie bot tool allows you to see what types of cookies a website stores and tracks on your computer. (Not to mention, how they might be using your data.) The tool is super-easy to use, too.
How it works. To scan a website for cookies, simply enter its URL (website address) into the search bar on cookie-script.com. Click “CHECK MY WEBSITE” and our cookie bot will scan the website to determine which types of cookies are in use by the website’s owners. Once the scan is complete a report will be generated. The wait time to generate results is anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, based on your connection speed and the size of the website.
What’s in the report. In your generated report you will notice several fields/criteria used to classify the various types of cookies. Here are some of the things you might see in your report:
- Level 1, 2, or 3 cookies. Level 1 cookies are usually those of little security concern as they are not tracking sensitive information that could reveal personally-identifying information. Levels 2 and 3 type cookies are those which store more personal or identifying information.
- First- and third-party cookies. Cookie Script's cookie bot reports include details on whether cookies are originating from a first-party or third-party interest. First-party cookies are usually used for the sole purpose of functionality and website customization. Third-party cookies, on the other hand, are primarily used by advertisers to send you targeted ads as you browse the internet.
How Running a Cookie Bot Can Help You
A cookie bot tool allows you to see what types of cookies a website stores and tracks on your computer. By running a cookie bot from cookie-script.com, you can see exactly what types of cookies a website may download onto your device.
These days, many people blindly click the cookies "Opt-In" button on websites. Equally worrying is the complexity of cookie notices on websites; the average web user likely has no concept of what amount of privacy they are giving up to use certain websites. Simply put, a cookie bot or ”cookie checker” is an essential tool that allows you to keep your online privacy intact.
Can I keep Websites from Tracking My Cookies?
Sure! Virtually all web browsers, whether on a desktop, tablet, or smartphone will have a "private" or "incognito" viewing mode. This feature is usually found in the menu bar of your favorite web browser.
It’s worth noting that private browser windows will not protect you from the prying eyes of your internet service provider or employer. But, using a private window will prevent the browser from storing history, cookies, and other temporary files.
Many web browsers, such as Google Chrome, have a “do not track” feature that is somewhat useful. Although, it relies on the goodwill of website owners to actually acknowledge this types of selection, which many do not.
Let’s Chat Over Cookies
Have a question about cookies, cookie bots, or how to ensure your website remains compliant with all the latest privacy laws and regulations? Reach out to a Cookie Script team member today. We’d be happy to help!