Say no to cookies from strangers

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Context: How did the web cookie become the bone of contention in the battle for privacy?

What is a web cookie?

A cookie is a little piece of text stored on one’s web browser. It can identify what sites one has visited, to which sites one goes too often, or even, under some circumstances, the details of the credit card that one used to shop at an e-commerce site.

How did privacy issues come to be associated with web cookie?

The realization that a cookie can track user information, led to the first uproar, from Europe leading to the enactment of a new law, the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which became enforceable in May 2018. The GDPR legislation requires all companies, whether European or from any other country in the world, to specifically ask the web user’s permission before using a web cookie to store information about that user.

This law also provides for fines to be imposed on those websites which take user information without his explicit permission. This is what makes every website you visit ask one’s approval about storing their cookie on one’s browser.

The magnitude of the fines imposed under the GDPR is astounding: $823 million on Amazon, $249 million on WhatsApp, $9 million on Vodafone, to name just a few.

The United States, under President Joe Biden, is also said to be considering data privacy regulations along the lines of the European one.

Source: This post is based on the article “Say no to cookies from strangers” published in the Business Standard on 5th June 22.

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