Browser CookieLR

The HTTP Cookie: Like virtual door keys, cookies stay in the memory of a browser and allow a website to recognise returning users to a site and allows them access to targetted content and/or services. (Ad Week)
With the increasing commercial applications of the Internet, it was probably inevitable that cookies would quickly be utilized for advertising purposes.


Cookies segregate content as per users’ preference.
Plenty of major ad companies online serve ads to thousands of different Web sites, so they can retrieve their cookies from all of these sites, too. Tracking a consumer’s progress online is not such a bad thing. When tracking is used within a site, data helps the site owners tweak their product/service designs, enhancing popular areas and eliminating or redesigning “dead ends” for more efficient user experience. Tracking data is used to give users and site owners more targeted information or to make recommendations on purchases, content, or services to users, a feature many users appreciate. This automatically helps the Advertisers track their audience and push their services, accordingly.

Cookies are the central force behind many online marketing tactics.
When a visitor leaves a website, moving onto another one, as designated by the retargeting campaign, an ad from the original site is displayed. This move, [read: retargeting] is essential for Advertisers.

Targeting specific users, who are most likely to convert, is the dream of web marketers. ‘Cookies’ make this possible. Social Networking sites like Facebook and Google support the importance of Internet privacy when they call for an end to cookies. Their database already has enormous amounts of data about their users, independent of cookies, which they are ready to further monetize, in a way to protect cookies from withering away; and also in order to protect a user’s privacy.


Since we mentioned the Social Media platforms and their support for Internet Privacy, it is only justified that we mention the fact that Facebook’s new ad-platform lets brands track its audience around the web. So now, if and when you come across a statement like, “Facebook knows more about your life than Google”, you better believe it. ‘The Social Network’ is putting all that information about its users to good use—at least for advertisers.

Now, the question is:

Why do advertisers want to use cookies in this way?

Cookies help the ad serving website with the following:

  • Cookies limit the number of times an ad is shown. This function comes in handy while dealing with “potentially annoying advertising forms” like popup ads. Cookies ensure that a popup only shows up once per visit.
  • Ads (in general) are more effective when shown in a particular sequence. When you help a website remember the pages you’ve visited during your browsing session, cookies enable ads to show up in a particular order.
  • Cookies allow the third party ad serving website to collect information on how many times an ad was shown on the website.

Cookies allow advertisers to keep track of how many people visited the advertisers’ websites. This helps in determining if a particular advertising campaign produced desired results.

How Advertisers use cookies to track a user’s online behaviour.

Advertisers can follow an individual’s movements from site to site and build a database of their online activity with the help of the so-called “third-party cookies”.
A user is always the first party, and the cookies received when visiting a website are the second-party cookies. Usually, websites let advertising networks place ads within their pages. If a user clicks on an ad, another cookie is sent to the user’s browser by the Advertiser – that is the third-party cookie. With every new site being visited that’s related to that particular advertiser, the third-party cookie can be traced. This way, the advertiser learns about a user’s online habits and can build up a consumer profile of the user – this is termed as ‘behavioural tracking’. Next step, pretty obviously, it shows the user specific ads matching the user’s interests.

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The myth holds that advertisers can’t track users on smartphones like they can on PCs. But that’s not entirely true.


Advertisers can easily track a user’s smartphone.

How did you wonder?

Read the “Allow” or “Accept” option which pops up, and we hit without a second thought, is how.


The HTTP data is not exclusive to a single person; therefore Advertisers can also track the online behaviour of their audience, towards their competitive brands, and/or their services. This, again, has led to the much-talked about ‘App-Only’ move, which a lot of brands are taking up now [Read: Myntra, Flipkart].

They have shut down their websites and shifted to the app-only channel, in order to keep the information collected by cookies, limited to their perusal only.



So here comes the big question:

Does the HTTP Cookie Crumble?

HTTP Cookies have been a topic of controversy for a while now. While advertisers and privacy groups remain at odds over the potential value of cookies, they remain in wide usage. Newer options for rejecting cookies are readily available to most users, as well as a variety of “add-on programs” which will eliminate the cookie files, altogether.


Some users may not mind having cookies used to make their web browsing more convenient, while others may consider their privacy concerns of greater importance than the time it takes to enter a password or fill out a form; read: the ‘Chrome Autofill’ Setting.

Unless there’s a path-breaking discovery of a new technology, cookies are here to stay. They may add on to a few carbs on your system, but that does not mean we stop gorging on them.