According to new research by NordVPN, only 3.5% of Canadians never accept cookies. To make matters worse, a whopping 43% say they always accept cookies. While most HTTP cookies are safe, some can be used to track people without their consent. Even more, cookies can sometimes be spied upon or used to fake the identity of a user, to gain access to their account or use their identity to commit a crime.
What are Cookies, and Why are They a Threat?
Also known as an HTTP cookie or browser cookie, a cookie is a piece of data that’s stored on your browser whenever you visit a website. When enabled, the website will remember your preferences and any small changes you made during your last visit.
Cookies are a normal and necessary part of the internet. Without them, you couldn’t log into a website or fill your online shopping cart. However, too many cookies can become a threat to both your security and privacy.
“People need to be aware that cookies follow you online. Even if you hide your IP address with a VPN, cookies can track what you do online and form a partial ID of who you are. Moreover, third parties can sell your cookies. Some sites earn revenue by serving third-party cookies. These aren’t functional – their purpose is to turn a profit from your data. Also, cookies are a vulnerability. With the wrong browser settings or when visiting the wrong website, cookies can introduce security vulnerabilities to your browsing experience,” says Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN.
68.5% of Canadians Feel That Their Online Data is Used for Targeted Ads
NordVPN research shows that Canadians feel the consequences of collected cookies:
- 68.5% feel that their online data is used for targeted ads;
- 66% feel that it’s being sold to other companies.
- Moreover, 57% and 53% respectively believe that their data is analyzed by websites for their internal use and that it’s used by social media platforms for people to find the most relevant information.
“Canadians must be pretty aware of the constant pop-up requesting them to ‘Accept all cookies?’ while visiting online websites. It happens in order to comply with data privacy laws, which were designed to protect users’ personal information and force companies to state what kind of data is being collected and how it is being used,” says Daniel Markuson from NordVPN.
How to Stop Cookies From Tracking You
There are plenty of tools and tips to make your online activity more private.
“First, navigate to your browser’s settings and choose to delete all the cookies stored in your browser. Most browsers also offer features to block unnecessary cookies automatically. Second, use incognito mode. While incognito mode does not equal privacy, this is exactly what it was made for — setting aside a single browsing session that won’t save cookies and your history.
Finally, use a VPN. One of a VPN’s core features is to hide your IP address, which is critical if you want your online searches to stay private. Quite recently, NordVPN launched the Threat Protection feature, which offers a tracker blocker. That means that third-party cookies won’t be able to gather data about people’s browsing habits and create a detailed profile on you. So you can use online services in privacy,” says Daniel Markuson.