As many of us know, companies such as Facebook use online technology to listen to all the websites you visit. They do this by storing cookies on your computer/device.
What are cookies?
In website development, it’s sometimes necessary to create an identifier on the users device; this saves basic information that can be used later to make their browsing experience more convenient. An example of this is remembering user logins which is commonplace for a lot of websites.
Whenever you check the ‘remember login’ box, you’re telling that website to store a small file on your device containing your username for that website.
When you come back later the script will check to see if the file exists and if so, it will simply log you in as that user automatically.
So essentially, a cookie is a small file that can contain information to be used by a site when you visit it.
So why do Facebook use this technology?
These tracking cookies update with new data every time you visit a web page (this data can include, products you view, images you’ve looked at, videos you’ve watched etc) and in turn, Facebook use the information they gather to provide you with highly specific advertising.
The next time you visit a site such as Facebook and say ‘Oh, there’s the watch I was looking at the other day’ remember; it’s only there because you’ve already viewed it previously.
Now before we get carried away with ourselves and thing too negatively, let’s just remember that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
That watch – it’s awfully nice, but quite expensive too!
Having these extra adverts tailored specifically to what you’ve been looking for may just help you out if a good deal comes along – especially with Christmas just around the corner.
Of course on the other side of the fence, there could be some morale issues – some may not want companies obtaining this data from your computer. Fortunately, there’s a very simple website that helps in this situation. The European Digital Advertising Alliance provides you with ‘ad choices’, which allows you to opt out of advertising information collection.
If you’ve opted out via the website above, you’ll still see adverts – but they won’t be using any tracking cookies so won’t display adverts tailored to you.
Overall, tracking cookies are a fantastic way for companies to advertise to people who are genuinely interested their products. Billions of pounds are spent each year on advertising and a lot of this is wasted by reaching the wrong audience; being able to advertise to those with a specific interest in your products is an incredible marketing tool (even if it is just a little scary for the rest of us).