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Cookies: what are they and what are they for?

31 May 2022. 16:15
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If your SME has a website, you have considered the necessity of introducing the usual pop-up window for users to consent to the use of cookies. But do you really know how they work and what advantages they can bring to your online business?

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To better understand how cookies work, we need to know the purpose for which they were created. The first cookie appeared in 1994 and its goal was to allow e-commerce users to keep their shopping cart full throughout the browsing process without losing any of the products. All this, through the use of a text file that was saved on the recipient's equipment.     



The same system is currently used by cookies to identify a computer, with the additional function of also tracking activity.



What are cookies and what are they used fro?

Cookies are small data files that a web server stores in your browser when you visit a specific page. There are many types of cookies and their purposes are varied. However, one of their main functions is to collect information about a user's browsing habits and their activity on the website in order to recognise them.

These files also store website access data such as user name, password, page personalisation or date of last visit. All this in order to make web browsing more convenient for the user. An example of this would be when a person fills their shopping cart in an online shop and does not complete the purchase. The use of cookies will allow them to return the next day and continue with their purchase right where they left off, as the items will still be in the shopping cart.


Cookies also allow some cookies to track users between websites, allowing anonymous profiles to be created for use by online marketers.

Considering this, if your website uses cookies, they will allow you to:

  • Remember your visitors' data such as their user name or their preferences when browsing your company's website, such as language, location or currency they prefer to pay with.
  • Suggest personalised content tailored to each user's interests, such as blog articles they may be interested in or products based on what they have previously checked out.
  • Provide a better user experience. This is because cookies help a web page load faster if it has been visited before.


It´s important to mention that, generally, cookies within a website or for own use are not a problem, as they have a functional purpose and do not collect personal data that put the user's privacy at risk.


Types of cookies

There are different classifications of cookies depending on who manages them and their purpose, in this post we will explain the most commonly used types.

According to their duration

  • Session cookies: these are temporary and expire when the user closes the browser or when the session ends. 
  • Persistent cookies: these cookies may remain on a computer's hard drive until the user or the browser deletes them.


According to their origin

  • Own cookies: these are those that are sent to the user's computer from our company's website and are managed by our own company.
  • Third-party cookies: these are sent to the user's computer from a computer or website managed by another entity, which processes the data obtained through these cookies.


According to their purpose

  • Strictly necessary cookies: these files are essential for browsing a website, platform or application and for the use of its different options or services.
  • Preference cookies: these cookies allow us to remember information related to choices made by a user in the past. For example, the selection of the language in which the user prefers the website to be in.
  • Statistical cookies: these collect information about a user's behaviour within a website, such as pages visited or clicked on.
  • Advertising cookies: these store information on user´s online activity and browsing habits in order to devolop a specific profile and be able to show them advertising based on it.

As you will see in this post, there are many uses that can be given to a cookie. For this reason, its use has been controlled by different laws and regulations in order to ensure the privacy of data processing. If you want to know more information about it, you can check the Guide on the use of cookies of the Spanish Data Protection Agency.

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