eli5: Is there ever a reason not to “reject all” cookies when opening a webpage?


eli5: Is there ever a reason not to “reject all” cookies when opening a webpage?

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Cookies are used to store settings you might consider useful. Most commonly it is your logged on username, but it could also be the language or the visual theme. Sometimes the shopping basket is preserved between sessions.

The web page will not work correctly with your settings. Essential cookies will make your experience on the web page smoother.

Let’s say you visit a news site, but only do so to read the sport scores. If allow cookies, they might notice which news stories you follow more closely, so they always put the sport scores on the front page for you to see, and prioritize sports related news articles.

Any preferences you set, including whether you’re logged in, plus items you put in a shopping cart are generally recorded using cookies. But some sites also use cookies for aspects of site navigation and turning them off will cause strange behaviour, possibly making it impossible to go where you want or resulting in “redirect” errors.

There is, generally, no reason to accept these cookies at all. The other answers are somewhat correct, some cookies are used for useful stuff like remembering what’s in your shopping cart, but these are considered essential cookies and if the website is implemented correctly, these will be used whether you accept cookies or not.

The cookie dialog you see on websites refers to additional tracking and advertising cookies, and it’s usually safe to reject them all.

A cookie is basically a tiny nametag or ID badge that websites ask your computer to put on and wear.

Whenever you revisit a website after you’ve accepted a cookie from them, your computer will show the website the cookie it saved from before. Like flashing your ID badge at a checkpoint gate.

The website can write whatever it wants on that nametag. But at the end of the day, that’s all it is. A nametag with some scribbles on it.

The most typical usage for cookies is so your computer can store when you’ve logged in somewhere. Instead of having to enter your username and password every single time you click a link or refresh the page, the website just gives you a temporary ID badge that indicates who you are, so it remembers you. Cookies like these are what some websites will call “essential cookies”, because without them, the website simply won’t function properly. No website will ever give you the choice to block these in their popups, but if you’re masochistic you probably could configure your browser to block them anyway.

The great scare of cookies comes from the fact that when your computer goes through that proverbial checkpoint gate to flash its ID badge, the website usually isn’t the only one there checking the ID to see who you are. Advertising networks like Google and Facebook may also be present. And if you accept their cookies, your computer will diligently flash its ID badge to them every time you go to that website. This, as you can probably imagine, lets them know which page you’ve just navigated to. The big ad networks have checkpoint agents all over the web, on sites you might not even expect. And if you have their cookies, you’ll effectively be telling them everywhere you’ve been going. They can use this information to build up a personality profile on you and feed it into their big targeted advertising machines.

There is pretty much no reason to not reject every single cookie you are given the option to reject, as all of the ones that give you the option are of the latter category. Not unless you believe you have something to gain by having your every move monitored to make the ad companies better at serving ads to you.

Some might argue that there is value in being served ads that are more relevant to them than ads that are not relevant to them.

Ads are annoying, except for the ones you find interesting. So given the choice, why not be served ads that you find interesting?

Depending on how you value your privacy, this may be worth the trade.