Cookies in the Spotlight: Exploring Their Role in Online Security

Safalta expert Published by: Shrishti Singh Updated Sat, 16 Dec 2023 11:44 AM IST

Highlights

Uncover the pivotal role of cookies in shaping online security, navigating through their advantages, privacy concerns, and the transformative emergence of FLoC, offering a privacy-centric solution in the ever-evolving landscape of digital privacy.

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Cookies are small pieces of data stored on a user's device by a web browser while the user is browsing a website. These data files contain information about the user's activity on the site and are designed to enable various functionalities. There are different types of cookies, including session cookies (temporary and deleted when the browser is closed) and persistent cookies (stored on the user's device for a specified period or until manually deleted). Cookies can also be classified as first-party (set by the website being visited) or third-party (set by a domain other than the one the user is visiting). 29 oct 2023- 42.4% of websites all over worlds use cookies.

Source: safalta

 
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Table of contents

Advantage of Cookies
Disadvantage of cookies
What is FLOC
Why  is FLOC coming in place of cookies

 What is the difference between cookies and FLOC
 

Advantage of Cookies

Cookies are important, so there is some importance for cookies which are given in these lines-

Session Management
Cookies are needed for managing user sessions on websites. They help keep track of a user's activity and maintain their logged-in status, allowing for ideal navigation between pages without requiring repeated authentication.

Personalization
Cookies store information about user taste, such as language settings, theme choices, and personalized content. This enables websites to deliver a more tailored and user-friendly experience.

Enhanced User Experience:
By remembering user preferences and settings, cookies give an improved general user experience. Users can enjoy a consistent and customized interchange with a website each time they visit.

Shopping Cart Functionality:
In e-commerce, cookies are commonly used to store items in a user's shopping cart. This makes sure that the selected products are keeped as the user crosses through different pages of the online store.

Authentication and Security:
Cookies are employed for user authentication, allowing individuals to log in securely to websites and access personalized or secure content. They play a role in verifying user identity and protecting sensitive information.

Website Analytics:
Cookies are vital for collecting data on user behavior and website traffic. Website owners and marketers use this information for analytics, helping them understand user preferences, improve content, and optimize their websites for better performance.

Targeted Advertising:
Advertisers utilize cookies to track users' interests and behaviors, enabling them to deliver targeted and relevant advertisements. This helps create a more personalized advertising experience for users.

Saved Login Information
Cookies can store login stuff, making it suitable for users to revisit websites without having to enter their username and password each time.

Remembering Form Data
Cookies can save information entered into web forms, stop users from having to re-enter the same data when navigating through different sections of a website
.
Customization of Content
Cookies contribute to the dynamic display of content on websites by remembering user preferences, allowing for a more change presentation of information.

Disadvantage of cookies

Just as cookies have advantages, they also have disadvantages, which can be shown as follows.

Privacy Concerns
Cookies can track and store user behavior, taste, and personal information. In some cases, this data collection raises privacy concerns, as users may be uncomfortable with websites collecting and storing their information without explicit consent.

Tracking Across Websites
Third-party cookies, which are set by domains other than the one the user is visiting, can be used to track users across different websites. This has led to concerns about online tracking, profiling, and the creation of comprehensive user profiles without their knowledge.

Security Risks
Cookies can be a risk to security threats such as cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks. Spiteful actors may utilize weakness in cookies to gain unauthorized access to user accounts or sensitive information.

User Profiling and Targeted Advertising
While targeted advertising can be seen as a benefit, some users find it invasive and may feel that their online activities are being extensively monitored. The extensive use of cookies in targeted advertising can contribute to the feeling of being constantly tracked.

Impact on Website Performance
While cookies are generally small, a high volume of cookies can impact website performance, especially on slower internet connections or less powerful devices.

What is FLOC?

FLOC, the full name of (FLOC) Federated Learning of Cohorts, is a privacy-focused technology developed by Google as part of its initiative to enhance user privacy in online advertising. FLOC is designed to replace third-party cookies, which are commonly used for tracking users across websites for targeted advertising, but have raised privacy concerns.

Why  is FLOC coming in place of cookies? 

FLOC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) came out as a response to growing concerns about user privacy in the context of online advertising, particularly the dependence on third-party cookies. Here are some reasons why FLOC was developed.

Privacy Concerns with Third-Party Cookies
Traditional third-party cookies have been generally used for tracking users across different websites to deliver targeted advertisements. However, this practice lifted significant privacy concerns, as it allowed for the creation of detailed user profiles without users' explicit consent.

Regulatory Changes and Industry Shifts
The landscape of online privacy and data protection has been evolving with the introduction of regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States. These regulations have led to increased scrutiny of online tracking practices and the need for more user-friendly and Privacy-Centric solutions.

Cohort-Based Targeting
FLOC introduces cohort-based targeting, where users with similar browsing behavior are grouped together into cohorts. Advertisers can then target their ads to these cohorts, rather than targeting individual users. This approach is seen as a privacy-friendly way to continue delivering targeted advertising without compromising individual user data.

User Choice and Transparency
FLOC is designed to be an opt-in feature, giving users the choice to participate. Users can decide whether they want their browsing behavior to be part of the cohort creation process. This approach aligns with the principles of user transparency and consent.

 What is the difference between cookies and FLOC?

Cookies and FLOC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) are both technologies used in the context of online tracking and advertising, but they differ in their approach to user privacy and the methods they employ. Here are key differences between cookies and FLOC

Individual Tracking vs. Cohort-Based Tracking
Cookies: Cookies are discrete trackers. They store data on a user's device and are used to track the user's activity across different websites. Each user typically has a unique identifier related to their cookies.
FLOC: FLOC, on the other hand, operates on the basis of cohorts. Users with similar browsing behavior are grouped into cohorts, and advertisers target these cohorts rather than individual users. FLOC aims to provide targeted advertising while preserving user privacy by not tracking discrete.

Centralized vs. Decentralized Processing
Cookies: The information stored in cookies is often processed centrally on servers. This means that data collected from users is sent to external servers for analysis and ad targeting.
FLOC: FLOC operates on a unit learning model, where cohort calculations are performed on the user's device itself. This spread processing is intended to reduce the need to send individual user data to central servers, and add to user privacy.

Data Storage Location
Cookies: Cookies store data directly on the user's device. This data can include information such as user preferences, login details, and tracking information.
FLOC: FLOC stores information about cohorts locally on the user's device, avoiding the need to store and transmit individual user data centrally.

 

Source: Safalta

In conclusion, the journey from traditional cookies to FLOC underscores the industry's responsiveness to user concerns and the continuous pursuit of a digital environment that prioritizes both personalization and privacy. As we navigate these changes, the ongoing dialogue between technology developers, businesses, and users will play a crucial role in shaping the future of online security and advertising practices.

What are cookies, and how do they work?

Cookies are small data files stored by web browsers in website visits. They keep user information, come in types like session and determined, and can be first-party or third-party.

What advantages do cookies offer for online security?

Cookies support session management, personalization, enhanced user experience, shopping cart functionality, authentication, website analytics, targeted advertising, saved login information, form data retention, and content customization.

What are the potential drawbacks of using cookies?

Cookies can raise privacy concerns, enable tracking across websites, pose security risks like cross-site scripting, contribute to user profiling discomfort, and impact website performance with a high volume.

What is FLOC, and why is it replacing cookies?

FLOC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) is a privacy-focused technology by Google replacing cookies due to privacy issues, regulatory changes, and the shift towards cohort-based targeting for a user-friendly solution.

Why was FLOC developed to address privacy concerns?

FLOC was developed to combat privacy issues with third-party cookies, which allowed extensive user tracking without explicit consent.

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