A third-party cookie is a type of cookie that is stored on a web user's computer by a website other than the website that the user is visiting. The website that sets the cookie is referred to as the third-party website, as it is neither the website the user is visiting nor a website operated by the user's internet service provider.
Third-party cookies are commonly used for online advertising and marketing purposes. They are used to track the user's activity across different websites, allowing advertisers or marketers to build up a detailed profile of their interests and preferences for targeted marketing.
In some cases, the third-party cookies will be able to track the user's browsing history by reading the information stored in the cookies. This facilitates various marketing activities such as targeting appropriate advertisements according to the user's interests.
The regulations and best practices concerning third-party cookies depend on the particular country and its relevant laws. In the UK, cookies can only be set if the user's consent is explicitly given. Consent must be specific, informed, and freely given. Online forms that require the user to accept the terms and conditions before proceeding should include specific information about the cookies that will be set. Users must also be made aware that rejecting the terms and conditions will prevent the website from setting cookies.
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It is important to remain open and honest about the fact that cookies are used on a website in order to remain compliant with the relevant laws and regulations. It is also important to note that users do have the ability to disable cookies by changing the settings in the browser.
As well as ensuring that the regulations concerning third-party cookies are adhered to, best practice also involves considering ways in which third-party cookies can be used effectively whilst respecting user privacy. This can include using third-party cookies to create a more personalised user experience throughout the website, or avoiding the use of reckless third-party cookies that do not have an obvious purpose or benefit.
Finally, third-party cookies should not be used as the only way of tracking user behaviour. It is important to use other methods to track this behaviour, such as the use of analytics software or the inclusion of ‘tick boxes’ to measure user preferences. This will reduce the amount of data being collected, provide a more accurate understanding of user behaviour, and allow you to respect the user's privacy.