A Gentle reminder that you are being tracked… Yesterday, today and tomorrow too.

Recent news has raised the alarm for how internet companies manage user data. The biggest concern, at least according to U.S. lawmakers is TikTock, which has been criticized for its extensive data collection of user data, including personal information, location data, device information, and browsing history. Lawmakers have attempted to prove that foreign Influence and TikTok’s Chinese ownership (by ByteDance) pose a national security threat by the Chinese government. Whether true or not, TikTock is just one company in an ever-growing number of internet companies that exploit user data.

The HTTP Cookie has been around since the heyday of the Dotcom Era and remains the simple, yet core technology that supports how user data is tracked across websites. Specifically, cookies are critical for:

  1. Personalization: Websites use cookies to remember your preferences and provide personalized content and experiences.
  2. Analytics: Cookies track user behavior on websites, such as pages visited, time spent on each page, and links clicked. This data helps website owners analyze and improve their site’s performance and user experience.
  3. Advertising: Third-party cookies are often used by advertisers to track users across different websites and deliver targeted advertisements based on their interests and browsing history.
  4. Authentication: Cookies can store login credentials and session information, allowing users to stay logged in to websites and access restricted content without having to re-enter their credentials each time.

Today, internet users are provided with ‘more’ transparency in how websites use these cookies. An interesting article on Wired.com (https://www.wired.com/story/cookie-pop-up-ad-tech-partner-top-websites/) discusses this phenomenon in elaborate detail. In California, for example, websites are required to ask permission to collect and share cookie data with ‘partners’, providing more information to internet users. And we all know that more information is always better, right? Maybe yes, maybe no. Obviously there are many different types of internet users. Some users might prefer to micromanage cookie access, while others might prefer a broader solution where a single policy could apply to a larger swath of websites. In any case, this is a gentle reminder to pay attention to those pop-up notifications, because you are being tracked and the page you land on is just the first stop in a vast network of data sharing ‘partners’.