Why were cookies created

New cookie policy! Why do I always have to "agree" on websites?

By Marlene Polywka | September 02, 2020, 6:06 p.m.

Consent fields for cookies are placed much more prominently than they were a few weeks ago. But why is that so?

In the past few years you have somehow got used to them - the little notifications, usually at the bottom of the screen, when you open a new website. We are talking about so-called cookies. Most of them would have routinely clicked "I agree" or simply ignored the banners as long as the content of the page was still clearly visible.

In the past few weeks, the inconspicuous banners on many websites have been gradually replaced by a conspicuous pop-up window that covers a large part of the page and must first be actively clicked away. The reason for this is the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR for short, of the European Union or a ruling by the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) in May 2020.

What are cookies anyway?

The cookies referred to here are small text files. As soon as a website is accessed on the Internet, the cookie is automatically sent and stored in the browser. If the user returns to the page later, he or she can be recognized by the cookie, which is then sent back to the website by the browser. In this way, information about each of your website visits is saved. In most cases, this is for user-friendliness, for example search terms are stored in this way.

New regulation on cookies

On the other hand, cookies have been criticized by data protectionists for years because the information stored is also used to display personalized advertising. For a long time now, cookies have not only been set by website operators, but also by third parties such as advertising companies, who use the data collected to create detailed user profiles.

The members of the European Union published the GDPR as early as 2016 in order to enforce uniform regulations regarding data protection on the Internet. This also applies to the use of cookies. Although the regulation has been in force since 2018, the BGH passed a judgment in May of this year that gives the provisions a lot of weight.

In general, the structure and placement of the cookie banners has been disputed several times in the past. The case, which made it to the BGH in Karlsruhe, was about a legal dispute between the online competition provider Planet49 and the Federal Association of Consumer Organizations. The latter accused the provider of already having preset approval ticks on their cookie field. Accordingly, users would agree to all cookies with a single click without actively dealing with the individual sub-items. The BGH agreed with the data and consumer advocates. Although the specific case from 2013 is still subject to the old guidelines, the principle "that the use of cookies to create user profiles for the purposes of advertising or market research requires the consent of the user" was already in force at that time. "The required consent must be active from the user; Checked boxes do not meet this criterion. So-called "necessary cookies", i.e. all cookies that are necessary for the technical operation of a website, are excluded. In the case of Planet49, however, the tracking cookies were not necessary.

A note, as is often used by website operators in the past, in which it is only indicated that all cookie settings would be accepted by continuing to surf, will no longer be sufficient in the future. For this reason, the consent box is now prominently placed at the beginning, in which users must actively confirm that they consent to the data storage by cookies. This may be annoying for some, but it serves general data security and consumer protection.

Check and delete cookies

If you want to check afterwards which cookies you have agreed to and if necessary delete some afterwards, you can do this in the usual settings of your browser. Under "Settings" and "Data protection and security" you have the option of viewing all the cookies that have been set and deleting them individually or all at once.

Even if one or the other might be annoyed about the new consent window, you create more transparency overall. Many cookies also improve the surfing experience on the Internet and some website functions are also based on the use of cookies, for example the integration of posts from social networks. The consumer advice center therefore recommends rejecting cookies from third-party providers in a targeted manner, but allowing the website operator's session cookies.

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