What your small business in Ontario needs to know about local cookies and 3rd party cookies - what are website cookies

It may feel like talk about GDPR and Cookies came out of nowhere, however, these have been ongoing major issues for a long time. Regulation is finally catching up with the ever-expanding online world. Learn what they are, what they do, and if you can block them. Here are the basics every small business owner in Ontario should know about Local Cookies and 3rd Party Cookies.

Know the Basics: What are Cookies and What Do They Do?

When we’re talking about website cookies, we’re not talking about the delicious chocolate chip variety. Cookies are used to track and remember website visitors. Technically speaking, cookies are tiny bits of code that are placed in the browser of your computer so that a specific website may remember your specific computer.

Local Cookies vs. 3rd Party Cookies

Cookies are split into local cookies and 3rd party cookies. I will explain the differences between both further on.

Local Cookies are cookies used on and by a specific website to enhance user experience.

They can have a variety of uses such as:

  • Remembering items in a Shopping cart (e-commerce)
  • Recording that you’ve already exited a pop-up and not to show it again
  • Tracking sitewide search results to show you similar products (e-commerce)
  • Analytics Data (most websites use an analytics tracking tool, we’ll talk more about this below)

3rd Parties use cookies to track visitors’ use of their apps or extensions. If you’ve ever watched a video on a website, YouTube or Vimeo has likely been tracking your cookies.  3rd Party Cookies include:

  • Video streaming services (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.)
  • Sound streaming services (Soundcloud, etc.)
  • Google Adsense (Google Ads)

Here is an example of Google Adsense’s Cookies description:

“AdSense uses cookies to improve advertising. Some common applications are to target advertising based on what’s relevant to a user, to improve reporting on campaign performance, and to avoid showing ads the user has already seen. Cookies themselves contain no personally identifiable information. Depending on the publisher’s and the user’s settings, information associated with cookies used in advertising may be added to the user’s Google Account.” – Source Google AdSense

Please keep in mind that to check your preferences, especially with search engines like Google & Bing and carefully choose which information to share.  The same goes for Social Media streams like Facebook and LinkedIn.

Can You Block Cookies?

While it is possible to block local cookies, less than 5% of users choose to.  Why? Because it makes using the Internet very difficult.  You will not be able to use any website that requires you to log in (Hotmail, Gmail, stores you may have an account with, etc.) as these websites all track your personal preferences to cater the experience to you specifically.

Blocking 3rd Party Cookies however is very simple and typically has no adverse effects. To block 3rd Party Cookies you will need to look up instructions specific to your Internet Browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.).

Do You Know What Information Your Small Business Website is Collecting?

As a small business owner, you really should know the answer to this question, however the answer is likely, no.  We may think about what information we provide to websites we visit, however we rarely think about what our own site may be collecting.

To see what information your websites collect, my clients can email me for a detailed report. Otherwise, you can use this free tool at your discretion. Keep in mind, it is likely tracking your information too! Here is a free Cookie Checker.

I hope this article helped shed some light on Cookies; what they are, how to block them and how to check if your small business website is using them.

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Deanna