Don’t think for a second that you’re the only one who likes indulging in cookies. Your browser has a crush on them as well. Wonder why? Keep on reading to find out.
Let’s start at the very beginning. What exactly are cookies and how do they work? Sit back and relax. We’ve got you covered.
Meet the Computer Cookie
Think about them as tiny secret agents built in your computer, who can either make your Internet navigation a lot easier or a lot messier.
From a more realistic perspective, cookies are bits of data that contain information about your behavior on the Internet and remember information such as usernames and passwords. They are responsible for tailoring and keeping track of your activity within a website, thus shaping the content according to your interests and personal preferences.
For example, I’m sure you’ve noticed that upon accessing a website, you are required to fill out a form providing certain information such as your name and email address. Or, a small window pops up on your screen and insists that you accept all cookies the website uses.
If you’re logged in, the same site can greet you via chat or pop up with your name on it instead of a common welcoming.
For example, I’ve recently seen my name pop up on an eCommerce website I’ve revisited. The catchline was something like this: “Gabriella, hurry up! Our stocks are emptying very quickly!” or “Welcome back, Gabriella!” Sounds familiar? I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
Another example worth mentioning comes with a remarketing strategy. But first, let’s look at a short definition of remarketing before we plunge into our example.
Remarketing, also known as “retargeting”, helps you display targeted advertisements to individuals who use your website or mobile app.
Let’s say you are looking for accommodation for your upcoming holiday on a famous travel app, like Airbnb. The next day while scrolling on Facebook, you see an advertisement pop-up on your screen, offering you a sweet and short catchphrase with a discount involved. There goes your trip to Bali! We’ve all been there.
Nonetheless, there’s more to what that came from. Cookies help you pick up where you left off, remember your login credentials, nail down your preferences and desires, and improve your web surfing habits.
Now, before you start thinking that you know all about cookies and their components, there’s one more thing you need to know. Cookies aren’t the only ones storing and gathering information through web searches. You didn’t see that coming, right?
Cookies and Caches are like cousins if you want. Both have the mission to improve website performance and to make it more accessible than it already is. To better understand the differences between Cookies and Cache, we’ve put together an article that highlights just what you need to know.
But for now, let’s stick to our cookies and explore the different types of them. Because well…there are a few.
7 Types of Web Cookies You Should Know About
We already know that cookies are here to provide us a custom-fit navigation and user experience. But how do we know which one is specifically designed to meet our needs? Let’s jump right into it to find out!
Picture this: you’re doing some online shopping on an eCommerce website and for some reason, you can’t add any items to your cart. Wonder why?
Usually, websites use session cookies to ensure that your information is remembered as you switch from one page to another. If your items vanish from the cart and you can’t hit the checkout, it’s most likely because that specific website does not have session cookies in place.
On another note, as their name implies, session cookies are temporary. Meaning that when you close your browser, your computer will automatically delete them.
2. First-Party Cookies
Unlike session cookies that disappear after you close your browser, first-party cookies are also known as permanent cookies. Without first-party cookies, websites would not be able to remember information such as your username and password, language choice, menu settings, and internal bookmarks.
However, it’s worth mentioning that first-party cookies disappear if you don’t use the website regularly. Meaning your computer will automatically delete them.
3. Third-Party Cookies
You would think that if first-party cookies are the good guys in the scenario, these are not any different than them. Think again.
Third-party cookies come with a lot of mixed feelings and there’s a reason for that. Because third-party cookies originate from a different domain than the one you might be visiting, they can only be used for one thing, tracking down your activity.
These cookies can recognize your browsing habits, online behavior, demographics, spending patterns, and much more. Due to their ability to track, third-party cookies have become the favorites of advertising networks in their quest to increase up their sales and ad impressions.
4. Secure Cookies
This cookie does exactly what its name suggests. Secures information and stops possible frauds via cross-site coding and can only be conveyed via an HTTPS tunnel. This means that as long as the cookie’s “Secure” indicator is active, the cookie’s transmission to an unencrypted channel will not be possible.
5. HTTP-Only Cookie
Let’s just say these last two are like siblings. Secure cookies and HTTP-Only cookies are very similar. They both work for reducing a cookie’s susceptibility to a cross-site threat. Using the HTTP-Only tag helps minimize the risk of service provider scripts trying to access a cookie, thus ensuring the cookie is secure and riskless.
6. Flash Cookies
This ladies and gentleman is the winner cookie of all, and we’ll explain why.
A Flash cookie is applicable in cases when the end user’s browser requests content that is supported by the popular browser plugin, Adobe Flash. Although it is very similar to regular cookies, it differs in terms of how much data can it hold and how can it be deleted.
Generally, Flash cookies store the same amount of data as HTTP cookies, however, they also contain clear-cut information related to Flash such as indicators of when the user’s advertisement stopped playing.
The thing about Flash cookies is that they remain untouched even after the end-user deletes their browser’s HTTP cookies. On the contrary, they can be used to recreate erased cookies.
7. Zombie Cookies
Last but not least, Zombie cookies. The spitting image of Flash cookies, but with a twist.
Zombie cookies are akin to Flash cookies, meaning they can be reproduced even after they have been removed by the user. Because of this, these types of cookies are hard to spot.
Zombie cookies are reconstructed using a technology called Quantcast, which generates Flash cookies on the internet to keep track of the user’s browsing history.
When a user attempts to remove the cookies after visiting a website via Quantcast, their credentials are gathered in the Abode Flash storage bin. To keep track of the user’s browsing history, the Quantcast program redeems the credentials and reapplies them. Kinda spooky if you think about it.
Now that you’ve got yourself acquainted with the cookie family, it’s time we explore the bumpier side of the road: WordPress Cookies.
WordPress has two ways of managing cookies: one of them being the source code of WordPress itself, and the other one by implementing several plugins that are responsible for creating cookies and holding them following GDPR criteria.
Generally speaking, the source code for WordPress creates cookies for two main reasons: to save users’ encryption keys for future visits and to retain identifying information when users leave comments. These are called Session Cookies & Comment Cookies.
On the other hand, WordPress’s standard cookies will help load the site faster and make it a lot easier for site visitors to log back in again.
For optimal efficiency, different types of WordPress sites might also need a set of different cookies in their sleeve. For example, an eCommerce site will always need cookies for the better conduct of shopping carts, wish lists, and customer preferences.
How to Delete Cookies
Cookies can be an optional part of your internet experience. If you so choose, you can limit what cookies end up on your computer or mobile device.
If you allow cookies, it will streamline your surfing. For some users, no cookies security risk is more important than a convenient internet experience.
Most browsers give you the option to clear cookies. Whether it’s Chrome, Firefox or Edge, just head over to their settings.
Find the cookie section — typically under Settings > Privacy. Click the boxes to clear or to allow cookies.
Removing cookies can help you mitigate your risks of privacy breaches. It can also reset your browser tracking and personalization.
What’s the thing with Privacy, Consent, GDPR?
The European Union enforced the General Data Protection Regulation in May 2018, new legislation aimed at protecting the security and privacy of online personal data of every European citizen.
However, since websites can be accessed from anywhere in the world, GDPR has a global reach, and it impacts every WordPress website.
On the bright side, WordPress’s latest release and a range of WordPress plugins now provide valuable GDPR compliance tools that help owners of the WordPress website remain on the ideal end of the spectrum of the current regulations.
What this regulation does is that it requires every website host to obtain full permission from users to acquire, store, and use confidential info, such as names, internal and external addresses, health and financial data, and much more.
One of the most straightforward ways for any site to comply with WordPress GDPR is to provide a valid opt-in, such as a checkbox. What these do is request full permission of visitors to use the website.
Yet cookies function differently – they reside quietly in the context of a user’s web browser, and visitors might not even be aware that they exist and what sort of data they’re gathering.
Even though GDPR applies predominantly to online businesses in the EU, it will also hinder website owners and developers outside the EU who monitor, collect and process any private information from any resident of the European Union.
How to Make Your WordPress Site GDPR Compliant
GDPR does not only apply to the front end of your WordPress site. The code of your website must also comply with the new legislation. Being an owner of a WordPress site, you are wholly accountable for how the WordPress theme, plug-in, or third-party software collects private details through your site.
Under the new legislation, while gathering any kind of data through your WordPress site, you must inform users about the following aspects:
- Who you are
- Why you are looking to obtain their data
- Where are you going to store their data
- How long will the data be stored
- What kind of information are you trying to collect
You need to be on the lookout for transparency if you don’t want to mess things up.
Useful GDPR WordPress Plugins
WordPress plugin installation is intuitive. From the dashboard, go to “Plugins” and look for the desired plugin.
We have a tiny tutorial on how to install, activate and work with WordPress plugins so you can get rolling in no time!
In the meantime, we’ve put together a few of the best free cookie notice WordPress plugins that are destined to make your life easier.
The SECURITI.ai plugin’s Cookie Consent enables websites to conveniently comply with global privacy legislation, such as GDPR, CCPA, LGPD, privacy, and more. This approach makes for a simple installation, and it’s highly configurable to align with your web page’s look.
Some of its features include:
- Regular website scans
- Fully integrated implementation of consent collection
- Customizable preference center
- Cookie auto-blocking
- Consent records and reporting
The plugin comes with exclusive features, such as customization, the option to accept the scroll cookie, the option to reject usable cookies, locations of the cookie message box, compatibility with WPML and Polylang, and translation ready with 16 languages.
Some of its features include:
- Set cookie expiry
- Redirect users to the specified page for more information
- Animate the message box after the cookie is accepted
- Set the background colors for the text and bar
- Link to more info page
The GDPR Cookie Consent plugin will help you to comply with the GDPR legislation.
As it comes with a host of features, some of which are listed below, the plugin is one of the best WordPress GDPR compliance plugins.
Some of its features include:
- The plugin has “Accept” and “Reject” options which will enable WordPress cookie notice.
- After a few seconds, you can opt to make the cookie notice bar disappear (fully configurable) or to accept it on the scroll (an option available under Italian law).
- It also has a Cookie Audit module so that you can easily view the cookies that your website uses on your Privacy & Cookies Policy page.
- The plugin can be configured for the cookie notice to have a “CCPA ‘Do Not Sell My Personal Details” control panel.
- Seamlessly blends in with Official Facebook Pixel, Smash Balloon Instagram Feed & Twitter Feed.
If you’ve made it this far, it means you’re awesome, and I hope this article sheds some light on the many attributes tech cookies have and how WordPress is using them.
As always, remember that cookies are one of the many ways websites can use to provide a better browsing experience for their users. By understanding how WordPress handles cookies, you can easily personalize your website for each user you have.
Now, celebrate the knowledge you gained with an actual cookie! You earned it.