Tracking Cookies Explained: What They Are and How to Block Them

Visiting a website and later seeing ads related to the content you viewed is the work of tracking cookies. These are small text files that store your browsing information to personalize ads and improve user interactions. It’s important to understand that around 42% of websites globally use cookies. However, this may also raise privacy concerns, which is why knowing how they function and learning to manage them is important for maintaining your online privacy.

What is a tracking cookie?

Tracking cookies are small text files placed on your browser by websites you visit. These cookies are designed to collect data about your online behavior and preferences. When you visit a website, the server generates a unique identifier and stores it in a cookie on your device. This identifier is used to track your interactions with the site and other websites that recognize the same cookie. There are different types of internet cookies. They can be first-party, which are set by the website you are visiting, or third-party, those that are set by external domains, typically for advertising purposes.

The primary goal of tracking cookies is to monitor your browsing habits and gather information so that they can create a detailed profile of your interests. This data is then used to personalize your online experience, such as displaying targeted ads that are more relevant to you. However, their extensive data collection capabilities also raise significant privacy concerns, as they can track your activities across multiple sites and over long periods, which may potentially lead to unwanted profiling and data misuse.

How do tracking cookies work?

Cookies and tracking operate by embedding small text files into your browser. When you visit a website, the server places a cookie on your device with a unique identifier. This identifier allows the server to track your activities and also recognize you when you visit in the future. So every time you access the website or another site that recognizes the same cookie, the browser sends this identifier back to the server. This helps them monitor your behavior, such as the pages you visited, the links you clicked, and the time you’ve spent on each page. They collect this data to build a profile based on your interests and preferences.

What information do tracking cookies collect?

Tracking cookies collect various types of data to build a detailed profile of your online activities. This information helps websites and advertisers understand your behavior and preferences for the purpose of offering personalized content and ads. Here’s a detailed look at what these persistent cookies collect:

Browsing history

They monitor the websites you visit, the pages you view, and the time you spend on each page. They use this information to create a detailed log of your online activities and interests.

IP address

Your IP address reveals your geographic location and this allows websites to show tailored content and advertisements based on your region. It also helps them in localizing search results and services.

Device information

Cookies can also collect data about the device you are using. This may include:

  • Type of device
  • Operating system
  • Browser version

This helps websites optimize their functionality and appearance for different kinds of devices or platforms.

Purchase history

Cookies record your activities across different sites, including your online purchases and also the products that you viewed. Such data can be used for retargeting ads, so that they can show you similar products which you might find interesting.

Search queries

The terms you’ve searched on websites and search engines can be tracked and advertisers utilize them to know your interests and preferences. This information is often used to display relevant ads and content according to your search history.

Login credentials

Cookies can store login information such as usernames and session IDs to keep you logged in on websites. This feature eliminates the need to sign in repeatedly.

Are tracking cookies dangerous?

Tracking cookies themselves are not inherently harmful like malware or viruses but they do pose significant privacy concerns. These cookies track your online activities and collect extensive data, which can then lead to unwanted profiling and privacy invasion. 

Privacy invasion

Websites that use cookies can collect information about your browsing habits, such as the sites you visited, the pages you viewed, and the items you clicked on. This data can be used to create comprehensive profiles that may feel intrusive, especially when this is used without your consent.

Data sharing

Collected data from tracking cookies can be shared with third parties, including advertisers and data brokers. This sharing can lead to the dissemination of your personal preferences and browsing history across various platforms.

Security risks

Although tracking cookies are not malicious, they can still pose security risks. If a third-party cookie is compromised, it could potentially expose your browsing data to cybercriminals. Additionally, some cookies may track sensitive information and this could increase the potential for data breaches.

Examples of how tracking cookies are used

Tracking cookies serve multiple purposes and they provide valuable data for website owners and advertisers. Here are some detailed examples of how they are utilized: 

Personalized advertising

Advertisers use tracking cookies to display ads tailored to your interests. When they analyze your browsing history and search queries, they’ll be able to show products or services you are more likely to be interested in. For instance, if you frequently visit sports equipment websites, you might see ads for running shoes or gym gear.

E-commerce recommendations

Online stores make use of tracking cookies to suggest products based on your browsing history or previous purchases. If you viewed a particular item but didn’t purchase it, you might still see it featured in a “Recommended for You” section or receive follow-up emails that showcase similar products.

Social media integration

Cookies help social media platforms track your interactions with social media buttons and plugins across different websites. They can use this to personalize your social media feed with content related to your online activities, such as articles that you read or products that you recently liked or viewed.

User preferences

Tracking cookies remember your preferences and settings on various websites. For example, they can store your language selection, log in details, and personalized settings, so they’ll keep these settings each time you return to the site.

How to block tracking cookies on your browser

Tracking cookies can compromise your privacy by collecting data about your online activities. So how do you delete tracking cookies to maintain your privacy? Here’s a detailed guide for the major browsers:


  1. Open Chrome and go to “Settings”.
  2. Click on “Privacy and security”.
  3. Select “Cookies and other site data”.
  4. Choose “Block third-party cookies”.


  1. Open Edge and go to “Settings”.
  2. Click on “Cookies and site permissions”.
  3. Select “Manage and delete cookies and site data”.
  4. Toggle on “Block third-party cookies”.


  1. Open Safari and go to “Preferences”.
  2. Click on “Privacy”.
  3. Check the box for “Prevent cross-site tracking”.
  4. Select “Block all cookies”.


  1. Open Firefox and go to “Options”.
  2. Click on “Privacy & Security”.
  3. Under “Enhanced Tracking Protection”, choose “Custom”.
  4. Check the box for “Cookies” and select “All third-party cookies”.

Using Poper Blocker to block cookie consent pop-ups

Poper Blocker is a browser extension for Chrome and Edge that offers a simple solution to stop cookie pop-ups and maintain your privacy. Here’s how to use it:

1. Open the Control Panel

Click on the Poper Blocker icon in your browser’s toolbar. Select “Advanced settings” to access the Control Panel.

Block cookie trackers with Poper Blocker

2. Enable cookie consent blocking

Under the Pro section, locate “Hide cookie requests”. Turn on this feature by clicking the toggle button.

hide cookie requests with poper blocker

3. Automatic blocking starts

With the cookie request feature enabled, Poper Blocker will automatically hide cookie consent pop-ups and block cookies so you won’t have constant interruptions from these annoying notices.

Start taking control of your privacy

Tracking cookies are a common tool used by websites to monitor user behavior, gather data, and personalize ads. And while they offer convenience, they also pose significant privacy risks. It’s important for you to know how tracking cookies work and what information they collect so you can make informed decisions about your online privacy.

When you implement measures to block trackers like cookies on your browser and use tools like Poper Blocker to handle cookie consent pop-ups, you’ll be able to protect your data and enjoy a safer browsing experience. So stay proactive in managing your online privacy and take the necessary steps to prevent unwanted tracking.


Can tracking cookies see my personal information?

No, tracking cookies do not have access to your personal information like your passwords, social security numbers, or banking details. They only collect data that are related to your online activities, such as the websites you visit, the items you’ve clicked on, and how much time you spend on specific pages. Such information is used to build a profile of your interests and habits so that they can provide you with targeted advertising or to improve the functionality  of their website.

Do tracking cookies slow down my browser?

Tracking cookies themselves are small files and do not inherently slow down your browser. However, having a large number of them stored on your computer or device can have a slight effect on the performance of your browser. Over time, as cookies accumulate, they can take up storage space and cause your browser to load more slowly. Regularly clearing your cookies and cache can help maintain optimal browser performance.

Are tracking cookies legal?

Yes, tracking cookies are legal but their use is regulated by privacy laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States. These laws require websites to inform you about the presence of tracking cookies and obtain your consent before collecting such data. You also have the right to know what information is being collected and how it will be used.

Can I clear tracking cookies manually?

Yes, you can clear cookies of this type manually through your browser’s settings. Most browsers have an option to delete cookies, and it’s either for individual websites or all at once. In Chrome, for instance, you can go to Settings > Privacy and Security > Clear Browsing Data. This removes cookies and other site data so you can free up storage space.

Do all websites use tracking cookies?

No, not all websites use tracking cookies but a significant number do. Websites use these cookies for various purposes. This includes understanding user behavior, improving user experience, and delivering targeted advertisements. While some websites might not use tracking cookies at all, others heavily rely on them to function effectively and generate revenue through personalized ads. This is why it’s always a good idea to check a website’s privacy policy so you’ll be able to understand how they will use your data.

Download Poper Blocker and block cookies instantly

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