Cookies without cookie claimers

I apologize for the linkbait in the photo. This post isn’t about that kind of cookie. It’s about the cookies that store data on your device while browsing the web. You’ve probably noticed in increase in those really obnoxious notices when you land on a site, asking you to agree to the cookies. So let’s talk about it.

What are web cookies?

A cookie, in the context of websites, is a small piece of data stored on a user’s device by the web browser while the user is browsing. Cookies are used to remember information about the user’s visit to the website, such as login credentials, preferences, and other settings. They play a role in enhancing the user experience by allowing websites to recognize and remember users.

Cookies can serve various purposes, including:

  1. Session Management: Cookies help websites manage user sessions. They store information such as login credentials or items in a shopping cart during a user’s visit to a site.
  2. Personalization: Cookies can be used to remember user preferences, language settings, and other personalized content, making the website more tailored to individual users.
  3. Tracking and Analytics: Cookies are often used for tracking user behavior and collecting analytics data. This information helps website owners understand how users interact with their site, allowing for improvements and optimizations.
  4. Advertising: Third-party cookies are commonly used in online advertising to track users across different websites and deliver targeted ads based on their browsing history and interests. If you’ve ever visited a website, then later that day saw an ad for that website on a different website, that’s why.

That all sounds like useful stuff, right? What’s the big deal with having to accept cookies all the time?

Cookies can be beneficial for improving user experiences, they also raise privacy concerns. Some users may be uncomfortable with the idea of websites tracking their online activities. As a response to these concerns, there have been regulatory developments, and web browsers often provide settings for users to control cookie behavior, including options to block or delete them. And many website owners have started to put up cookie disclaimers in accordance with the EU GDPR laws.

What is GDPR?

GDPR stands for the General Data Protection Regulation. It is a comprehensive data privacy regulation that was implemented in the European Union (EU) on May 25, 2018. The GDPR replaced the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC and is designed to give individuals greater control over their personal data and to harmonize data protection laws across the EU member states.

If you’ve traveled to Europe in the last few years, or visited European websites recently, you’ll notice those nonstop cookie disclaimers on all of them. That’s the law.

Many American websites are following suit. There was a lot of drama about GDPR leading up to it taking affect, with many of us in the US wondering how it would affect us.

Does GDPR apply to American websites?

Yes. If your website offers goods and services to residents of the EU, or monitors and tracks visitors to your site from the EU, then you could be subject to this law. Pay particular attention if your target audience is EU residents. There are stiff penalties if you aren’t in compliance. However, to date, this hasn’t been tested in the courts, so how it would pan out is still up in the air. I’ll choose not to speculate on possible outcomes.

But anyway, this is why you now see cookie acceptance popups everywhere you go.

Maybe. I can already hear people not liking this answer, saying that all websites need a cookie disclaimer. But that’s not the case. If your website doesn’t track user behavior through cookies, then you don’t need to have a disclaimer. It’s as simple as that.

Cookie usage examples:

  1. Login Authentication:
    • Scenario: A user logs into an online platform.
    • Cookie Use: A session cookie is created upon successful login to authenticate the user during their session. This cookie allows the user to navigate different pages without re-entering credentials.
  2. Shopping Cart Persistence:
    • Scenario: A user adds items to an online shopping cart.
    • Cookie Use: A persistent cookie stores information about the user’s cart contents. This allows the items to persist even if the user closes the browser and returns later.
  3. Personalized Content:
    • Scenario: A user customizes the layout or theme of a website.
    • Cookie Use: Cookies store user preferences, such as color schemes or layout choices, providing a personalized experience during subsequent visits.
  4. Website Analytics:
    • Scenario: Website owners want to understand user behavior.
    • Cookie Use: Analytics cookies track user interactions, including pages visited, time spent on each page, and click-through rates. This data helps optimize website performance and content.
  5. Language Preferences:
    • Scenario: A user selects their preferred language on a multilingual website.
    • Cookie Use: A cookie stores the chosen language, ensuring that the user sees content in their preferred language during subsequent visits.
  6. Ad Retargeting:
    • Scenario: A user views products on an e-commerce site.
    • Cookie Use: Third-party cookies track the user’s browsing history, enabling advertisers to display targeted ads for viewed products on other websites the user visits.
  7. User Surveys or Pop-ups:
    • Scenario: A website displays a survey or pop-up for user feedback.
    • Cookie Use: Cookies may be used to ensure that users are not repeatedly shown the same survey or pop-up during a single session or within a specific timeframe.

Does your website do these things? If so, then you probably want to add a cookie disclaimer. However, if your website is static, doesn’t collect user information, and doesn’t have any analytics or ads… then you might not need it. (Remember that I’m not a lawyer; confer with a lawyer if you want legal advice.)

With WordPress, it’s pretty easy. There are loads of plugins for it. You can go to the WordPress repository and search eother for GDPR or cookie compliance to see options. My personal favorite is CookiesYes – Cookie Banner for Cookie Consent.

Here’s how to set it up:

  1. In your WordPress Dashboard, navigate to plugins and go to Add New. Enter CookieYes – Cookie Banner for Cookie Consent, and when you see the result, click Install. Once installed, Activate.
  2. Upon activation, your site will automatically have the default cookie disclaimer appearing with the default appearance and verbiage. Here’s what it looks like.
Cookie Disclaimer

If that’s good enough for you, then you are done. However, if you’d like to customize it, you can go to the new CookiesYes area of your Dashboard where you can select many options, including where the banner will show up on your site (top, left, right, etc), the coloring (it’s nice to make it coordinate with your site), the actual words used in the disclaimer as well as what the buttons say. This plugin lets you customize everything about the appearance of this disclaimer.

You will also want to create an account with the CookiesYes in order to scan your site for cookies and record consent, which are legally required by the GDPR. The account is free for the basic level, which includes 100 pages per scan and 25,000 visits a month which is sufficient for a lot of websites.

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Amy Masson, Web Developer

Amy Masson

Amy is the co-owner, developer, and website strategist for Sumy Designs. She's been making websites with WordPress since 2006 and is passionate about making sure websites are as functional as they are beautiful.

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