Last updated: May 23, 2018
I AIN’T TALKIN’ GRANDMA BUFFALO
What are cookies?
Me: “You’re shitting me, right?”
GDPR: “No, I shit you not.”
Technology has co-opted a beloved word and turned it into an arcane concept humble webmasters like yours truly must explain at length. So here we go…
Cookies are small files that your web browser saves to your computer’s hard drive. They track and store information about how you interact with my site. The cookies used by my website do not collect or store any personally identifying information. This is key – I do not know anything about you personally. I do not know whether you’re a man, woman, child, rich, poor, old, or young.
When you visit the site again, that cookie allows the site to recognize your browser. Just imagine my site telling your browser, “Welcome back, old friend.” Or maybe it’s more like a secret handshake. Pick the metaphor you like best and run with it.
On my site, cookies provide a convenience feature to save you time. For example, if you leave a comment on any post, there is a checkbox you can tick to allow a cookie to remember you. If you want to leave a comment on a
different post, the cookie will remember the name, email address, and website URL you left in the first comment.
Cookies set by the website owner (that’s me) are called “first-party cookies.” Anyone who does not hyphenate the phrase “first-party” was not an English major. The comment cookie described above is a first-party cookie because the functionality is built into the site by WordPress.
Cookies set by parties other than the website owner are called “third-party cookies.” Third-party cookies are often placed by plugins the website owner enables in order to achieve a particular effect for their website. On other sites, this may include advertising and interactive content. On my site, this includes analytics, affiliate links, mailing list management, and a speed-enhancing application.
The parties that set these third-party cookies can recognize your computer when it visits my website and also when it visits certain other websites (like Amazon, in the case of an Amazon affiliate link posted on my site).
I use actual cookies when I’m feeling snacky and have low blood sugar. I use digital cookies to add speed and functionality to my website, as in the case of the comment cookie described above.
Cookies can also tell me what parts of the website users visit most frequently, as in the case of the Google Analytics cookie. This helps me understand what kind of content is popular, so I can bring you more like that. It also helps me understand how dismal my web traffic is so I can pour a larger shot of whiskey.
What types of cookies do I use and how do I use them?
My website uses the following non-chocolate-chip cookies:
- WordPress blog comments: This first-party feature makes it faster for site visitors to leave multiple comments on blog posts.
- Google Analytics: This third-party service helps me understand how visitors use my site. This helps me (theoretically) make better decisions about content.
- Cloudflare: This third-party service helps speed up delivery of my website.
- MailChimp: This third-party service operates my mailing list. When you sign up for my list, they will process and store the information you provide.
More about Google Analytics
Unless a website owner changes this setting, Google Analytics stores the IP address of website visitors. Luckily, I like you guys so I’ve set my Google Analytics to anonymize all IP addresses. This means the last 8 digits of your IP address are changed to 0 for tracking purposes. This means a full IP address is NEVER EVER, LIKE EVER written to to disk, by me or by Google.
You might be wondering: why on earth do I want to know where you are or which pages you visit on my site? Well, if I find out I have a ton of readers in Australia, for example, I’d want to include Australian buy links on my book pages. Google Analytics can also tell me which pages on my site are visited most frequently. I can then go back and ensure those pages are optimized for fast delivery on mobile devices to make sure you guys have an easy time accessing my most popular content. My goal in obtaining this information is to make your user experience better on my site.
How can you control cookies?
If you don’t want to accept cookies from my site (or any site), you have the right to opt out and reject them. You can still use my site even if you reject its cookies. To reject cookies, please use your your web browser’s security settings to block them, as described below.
You can also use a few common-sense methods of avoiding cookies. One common method is to clear your browser’s cache regularly. This erases all cookies collected during that browsing session. Or you can browse in Chrome’s incognito mode and close the browser when you’re done.
Here are a few links that explain how to reject cookies:
- Chrome: Manage Your Cookies and Site Data
- Firefox: Cookies: Information Websites Store on Your Computer
- Internet Explorer: How to Delete and Manage Cookies
- Safari: Cookies
Know how I know these are the browsers you guys are using? Because of Google Analytics! FULL CIRCLE, n’est-ce pas?
Google Analytics also provides a browser add-on you can install that prevents Google Analytics from using your browsing data. To learn more and get the installation link, click here.
Are there any other tracking technologies on your site?
I don’t use any other tracking technologies like pixels or GIFs. I used to use the Facebook tracking pixel, but deleted it in May of 2018 because I never ran an audience-based ad campaign. At first I was too lazy and too cheap. Now I don’t believe Facebook has any business owner’s best interests at heart. I do not want them to have your information or my money.
What about your mailing list? Is it tracking me?