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A Complete Guide To Cookie Tracking | SEM For Winners


99% of cookies on the Internet are used for web tracking and for the purpose of showing targeted advertisement to users. 


The omnipresent internet has proven to be a fount of riches for marketing strategists. Every day, the colossal sum of billions of dollars is splurged on online advertising. This monetary trend is anticipated to snowball in the forthcoming years. Nonetheless, as customers become more perspicacious and cognizant of how their data is being logged and exploited, it becomes more arduous for marketers to apprehend their target audience.

In this article, we shall scrutinize one of the most prevalent tools wielded for cookie tracking. The discourse shall delve into the nitty-gritty of what cookies signify, how they are employed to trail users, and the actionable countermeasures that you can take to safeguard your privacy.

What Are Cookies?

The multifaceted and paramount tool in a marketer’s artillery comprises the minuscule, yet mighty, cookies. In essence, cookies refer to small fragments of data that the websites you peruse deposit on your computer. The primary function of cookies is to capture and collate details about your browsing proclivities and preferences, which can subsequently facilitate the bespoke targeting of ads and content for you.

Despite the undeniable utility of cookies in the domain of marketing, they have not escaped criticism for their potential violations of users’ privacy. An instance of this backlash is the European Union’s recent legislation, mandating the acquisition of users’ consent before cookies are stashed away on their computers.

How Does Cookie Tracking Work?

cookie tracking

The multifarious employment of cookies to trace users is achieved through various modalities. One common approach involves the utilization of web beacons, otherwise known as pixel tags – minuscule images embedded in web pages and email messages. Whenever you visit a website or open an email, the web beacon dispatches a signal to the server that delivered the content. This signal can encapsulate a vast array of information, including your IP address, the precise time and date of your visit, and the particular pages that you viewed.

A further technique for cookie tracking involves third-party tracking, which transpires when a website leverages third-party services like Google Analytics to collect data about its visitors. These services employ cookie tracking mechanisms to track users across the web, often sharing the collected data with other entities.

Lastly, social media buttons, such as the ubiquitous “Like” button from Facebook, represent yet another method for cookie-based user tracking. These buttons, in essence, facilitate the sharing of content with friends but can also deploy cookie tracking to record and store information regarding the websites you visit and the content you share.

What Information Does Cookie Tracking Store?

As far as the storage of data pertaining to one’s browsing activities is concerned, cookies are capable of retaining a diverse range of information. These can encompass, but are not limited to:

  • The unique identifier assigned to your computer on the internet, i.e., your IP address, which enables it to be distinguished from the multitude of other devices that are connected to the worldwide web.
  • The time and date of your virtual visit, which can be utilized to determine the frequency and duration of your engagement with a particular website.
  • The pages that have been accessed by you, a detail that can be leveraged to gain insights into your interests and preferences and facilitate the targeted dissemination of advertisements and promotional content that are likely to pique your curiosity.
  • Your user identification number, which is an exclusive marker deployed to track your online activities, allowing for the personalization of content and ads that are tailored to cater to your specific needs and desires.

Is Cookie Tracking Dangerous?

It should be noted that cookie tracking is not inherently perilous. Albeit, it can be exploited to amass copious amounts of personal data about you, which can then be harnessed to inundate you with ads and content that hold no relevance to your interests. In addition, the omniscient eye of cookie tracking can trail your every move across the digital landscape and erect a comprehensive dossier of your predilections.

For those who harbor reservations regarding the issue of privacy, there are several viable countermeasures that can be taken to insulate oneself.

What Can You Do to Protect Your Privacy?

To avert potential privacy breaches in the online milieu, there are various preventive measures that one can undertake. One method to accomplish this is by purging the pre-existing cookies stored on your personal computer. This can be accomplished by accessing the settings feature on your web browser.

Another technique to bolster your privacy is by accessing the web through the “incognito” or “private” mode. By leveraging these modes, cookies are averted from being deposited onto your computer’s hard drive, thus mitigating the possibility of your online activities being surreptitiously trailed.

For those who desire an additional layer of security, you can install browser extensions that act as a bulwark against cookies being implanted onto your computer. These extensions serve to forestall cookies from being set by the websites that you frequent.

As a final resort, you can opt-out of targeted advertising altogether by visiting the Digital Advertising Alliance’s website and adhering to the stipulations proffered therein.

Cookie Tracking Regulations

For those domiciled within the European Union, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) likely needs no introduction. This seminal piece of legislation has established the prerequisite for websites to secure users’ consent before depositing cookies on their computers. It is worth noting that the GDPR extends to websites that target or collect data from users within the EU. Consequently, if your website is accessible to EU users, you are mandated to obtain their consent before initiating any cookie storage.

The California Consumer Act Privacy (CCPA) represents yet another milestone in the sphere of data privacy. Under this legislation, companies that collect data from California residents must divulge their use of cookies and obtain explicit consent if they sell this data to third parties.

As if that weren’t enough, the ePrivacy Regulation entered into effect on May 25, 2018, further amping up the stakes for cookie tracking. This regulation is primarily designed to safeguard the privacy of electronic communications and could exert a profound influence on the use of cookie tracking.

The ePrivacy Regulation demands that websites secure users’ consent before storing or accessing information via cookie tracking on their devices. In other words, if you aspire to store cookies on EU users’ computers, you must first secure their consent.

How to Get Consent for Cookie Tracking

There are myriad strategies for securing users’ consent before storing cookies on their computers. One tried-and-true approach is to add a conspicuous notice to your website, informing users of what cookies are and why you’re using them. It goes without saying that this notice should also feature a link to your privacy policy.

Another effective method involves implementing a popup that appears the moment users visit your website. The popup should offer a clear explanation of what cookies are and why you’re using them. It should also include a link to your privacy policy.

Last but not least, you may choose to incorporate a checkbox into your website’s forms. This checkbox must be ticked by users before submitting their information. Naturally, the checkbox should explicate what cookies are and why you’re using them. Furthermore, it should feature a link to your privacy policy to leave no stone unturned.

Bonus Lesson: Super Cookies

In the world of cookies, there exists a special type known as “supercookies” that are notorious for their resilience. Unlike regular cookies that are deleted when you close your web browser, these supercookies stick around and can continue to track your online activity even after you’ve left a website.

Advertising companies are particularly fond of using supercookies as they allow for the creation of comprehensive profiles of users’ browsing habits. Blocking these cookies can be a challenging task, making it all the more important to understand their implications for your privacy.

If you’re keen on staying informed about supercookies and how they operate, keep a watchful eye for our upcoming blog posts, or better yet, drop us a comment below to show your interest!

FAQs on Cookie Tracking

Is Cookie Tracking Legal?

In most jurisdictions, cookie tracking remains well within the ambit of legal norms. Nevertheless, it ought to be noted that there exist a few exceptions. For instance, the GDPR stipulates that websites are mandated to secure the consent of users prior to storing cookies on their computers. Furthermore, some web browsers, Safari and Firefox being examples, have integrated certain features that automatically thwart third-party cookie tracking.

What is the Difference Between First-Party and Third-Party Tracking Cookies?

As a discerning netizen, it is imperative to differentiate between first-party and third-party cookie tracking tools. First-party tracking cookies are deposited onto your computer’s hard drive by the website you are currently perusing. Conversely, third-party tracking cookies are implanted onto your computer’s hard drive by websites distinct from the one you are currently browsing. Typically, these cookies are employed for advertising purposes.

Can I Opt-Out of Cookie Tracking?

Yes, one can opt-out of cookie tracking. One viable option is to steer clear of targeted advertising completely, and this can be accomplished by visiting the Digital Advertising Alliance’s website and adhering to the instructions furnished therein. Furthermore, you can install browser extensions that are specifically designed to preclude cookies from being deposited onto your computer’s hard drive.

What is the ePrivacy Regulation?

The ePrivacy Regulation, which is a veritable cornerstone of legislation, mandates that websites are required to procure the consent of users prior to storing or accessing cookies on their devices. This regulation, which is intended to safeguard the sanctity of electronic communications, will undoubtedly have a significant bearing on the deployment of cookies.

Are there any other regulations I should be aware of?

In the expansive and ever-evolving landscape of online privacy regulations, there are several other laws and acts that you should definitely keep on your radar. These include CalOPPA, COPPA, and the DPA.

Do I need to get consent from every user?

Fortunately, you don’t need to procure consent from each and every user. Only users who are located in the EU, California, or other similar jurisdictions where these laws apply require consent. This significantly simplifies the process and makes it more manageable for businesses and organizations.

What happens if I don’t get consent?

Ignoring consent requirements may result in significant penalties, such as fines of up to 4% of your annual global revenue or €20 million (whichever is greater) under the GDPR or up to €10 million or 2% of global annual revenue (whichever is greater) under the ePrivacy Regulation. In addition, various laws, such as the California Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA), the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and the UK Data Protection Act (DPA), impose additional regulations that businesses must comply with. While obtaining consent from all users may not be necessary, it is crucial to obtain it from users located in the EU, California, or other jurisdictions where these laws apply.

What should I do if I have more questions?

If you have further inquiries regarding cookies, tracking, or consent, it is advisable to consult a legal expert or privacy specialist. At 12 Channels, our subject matter specialists are always ready to engage in discussions about these topics and assist you in finding the optimal solution for your business.


Cookies are small bits of data that are stored on your computer by websites you visit. They are used to collect information about your browsing habits and interests, which can then be used to target ads and content specific to you. There are several ways to manage cookies, but hiring an agency will give you an upper hand in managing these kinds of ads without having to worry. Contact us today at 12channels and get a free consultation.

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