This is not one of those cookies and cream moments. With the commencement of the Protection of Personal Information Act, 2013 (“POPIA”) Cookies have a new meaning which won’t always be agreeable.

In the world of information technology and data compliance terminology Cookies are small files which are stored on a user’s device and are enabled to carry and store personal information.

Each Cookie is made up of different components, such as name, surname, username, password which refer to the type of information that the Cookie is storing.

Where did the term ‘Cookies’ come from?

According to an article written in 1997 by Paul Bonner for Builder.Com:

“Lou Montulli, currently the protocols manager in Netscape’s client product division, wrote the cookies specification for Navigator 1.0, the first browser to use the technology. Montulli says there’s nothing particularly amusing about the origin of the name: ‘A cookie is a well-known computer science term that is used when describing an opaque piece of data held by an intermediary.’ “

With the implementation of data privacy legislation all over the world, you can hardly enter any websites without a ‘Cookies Consent’ or ‘Cookies Notice’ popping up.

This disclosure is extremely important and aims to help you make an informed decision on whether or not you want to proceed to the website.

Different types of Cookies do different things with your personal information ranging from:

Session Cookies – Your personal information will expire immediately or a few seconds after you exit the website.

Preferential Cookies – Your personal information will remain for a very long time ranging from a second to 10 years.

Secure Cookies – These are Cookies with encrypted data and are mostly used by banks on their websites or applications.

First Party Cookies – The personal information here is set and captured by the website owner and used for the purposes of calculating the number or users, pages viewed etc.

Third Party Cookies – These Cookies are used to track users for marketing and advertising campaigns. This happens when the website allows third party elements onto their website.

The proverbial question is: What harm can the ‘Cookie’ do? 

David Whalen has stated that revealing any kind of personal information opens the door for that information to be spread.

If you’re going to single-out Cookies as your sole vulnerability to personal privacy, you should re-examine how you live your daily life.

Consider the growing trend of technological conveniences in our lives. We use cards at supermarkets; we place electronic tags on our cars to pay tolls faster and more easily; we let banks pay our bills for us automatically each month. Whilst technology makes our lives more convenient, each time we use it we are exposed to a loss of privacy. They know what you eat, drink and where you go!

It’s the same with Cookies. In fact, one may argue that Cookies in the long run will be less damaging to privacy efforts than those technologies described above.

However, it is wise to carefully consider the information you collect and share over the Internet.

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