27 May 2022

    Nafisa Akabor

    What are cookies?

    You accept cookies all the time, but what are they and what permissions are you giving to websites?

    Every time you visit a website from a web or mobile browser, you get asked to either ‘accept’ or ‘reject’ cookies. The settings are a bit more granular when you go into them, which lets you decide between basic recommended ones for a site to function, or inadvertently, people tend to “accept all” to get the pop-up out of the way.

    But what are cookies anyway?

    Cookies are small text files sent from the site you visit to the browser you are using. And once you accept them, it will be stored on that browser, which is then used to track your activity and shared with the site that you visited.

    What Apple says: There are different types of cookies, and according to Apple, they’ve put them into three categories: strictly necessary, performance and functionality. The first being the essential ones to use the site i.e., to use shopping baskets and billing; the second being information collected about your usage patterns i.e., the pages you visit often or if you clicked an affiliate link; and the last being ones that remember your choices while browsing, i.e., using geographic locations so the version of the website is localised for you, and which videos you watched so you don’t see them again.


    What Google says 

    Google uses cookies for functionality, security, analytics, advertising, and personalisation. As mentioned above, they work in the same way, with the addition being analytics that Google collects from user patterns by interaction; and advertising so they can render you personalised ads based on what you are browsing. But important to note, you can also tweak these settings under advertising cookies, which can limit the number of times an ad is shown or muting them to not see it again. Google says it’s personalisation cookies last six months, which are used for recommending videos on YouTube, and autocomplete in Search.

    The reason we see a lot of websites asking us to accept cookies is due to data privacy and protection laws, such as the European General Data Protection (GDPR), which became law in May 2018. South Africa’s Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) is like GDPR in some ways because of the data protection laws. They are based on providing consumers with “opt-in” features rather than making it a default, which is why you must accept cookies before accessing a website. 

    The key difference is to read all the options provided to you before you decide which ones you agree to. So instead of accepting all cooking the next time, just tick the boxes for the essential ones that the site needs to function, and make sure you are not giving consent for your activities to be tracked. The downside to not accepting all cookies on websites is not receiving the full user experience. Also, pay attention to sites that are unencrypted and use private information.

    Get Vodacom fibre

    Vodacom offers a variety of home internet solutions, including fibre-to-the-home and LTE plans. Click here to check if there’s Vodacom fibre coverage in your area. Visit the Vodacom LTE site as well to see our LTE internet products. 

    Cover image by Getty Images

    Nafisa Akabor