Whether you believe in ghosts or ghouls, there's no denying that the real monster is digital.

The average Brit spends about 3.5 hours a day online, and in that time they encounter countless cookie notification pop-ups, with 61% of users hitting ‘accept all’ without a second thought. While it might seem like the easiest option, the real consequences can be much more sinister.

What are cookies?

No, we’re not talking about grandma’s freshly baked shortbread. Cookies are small text files placed on your system when you first visit a website, allowing developers to track your activity across their site and identify spots for potential improvement.

But you know what they say about sweet treats, right? A minute on the click, a lifetime on the device (or something like that).

Unwittingly accepting third-party cookies gives companies the power to track your browsing activity, even after you leave their site, bombarding you with targeted ads to buy their products. And this isn’t just the work of one or two technically advanced web developers. 87% of the world’s most popular domains engage in digital tracking.

One can't hurt...

We’ve all been there. What starts out as a quick snack can turn into a full-blown sugar addiction. And if you make a regular habit of accepting cookies, the damage they cause can catch up to you.

The more data you offer up to companies, the more likely they’ll use it to manipulate you. For example, if you were getting married you're likely to search for wedding venues, caterers or dresses. As soon as you start accepting cookies for the sites you're searching on, more and more ads relating to wedding products will start to appear. All these sites are manipulating you and competing to get you to buy their products.

For a more sinister example, in 2017 leaked documents emerged showing that Facebook shared psychological insights on its users with advertisers so they could target “insecure” teens with relevant products. The documents showed that the social media giant could use real-time tracking to identify words like “stressed”, “overwhelmed”, “anxious”, “nervous”, and “failure” in young people’s posts. This made them easier targets for personalised ads. Facebook was even found to have purposely exposed users to “negative emotional content” during this time, making them even more vulnerable.

Third-party cookies are out, first-party cookies are in

With more and more scandals emerging over the years, it’s become harder for users to ignore the ever-present threat of cookies. Throw in the general fear of data privacy dominating the 2020s, and people are increasingly wary of automatically clicking that ‘accept all’ button.

In fact, data giant Google announced they would phase third-party cookies out entirely. And many companies are expected to follow suit, instead turning to more reliable, locally stored first-party cookies to gather compliant data on their users. So, it seems like the once-sturdy third-party cookie may finally crumble.

Concerns about cyber security? Protect your data with Fasthosts

If you’re still feeling a little wary about searching the web, don’t worry. We know how important data privacy is, so we make it simple. Find out how you can protect your online presence with our industry-leading cybersecurity package.

Got any questions? Our support team is on hand 24/7 to help. Just give us a call on 0333 0142 700 or message us via live chat.