Navigating the Cookie Jungle: A Deep Dive into Website Cookie Consent


These days, most websites use cookies for one reason or another. Data protection laws require users to consent to a website using cookies during their session. Many users have no idea what a cookie is. As a website owner, it is up to you to provide users with accurate information to help them decide whether to consent. Many website owners do not know what they need to relay to their users to inform their decision. In this article, I will explain what browser cookies are, their main uses, the risks they carry and the laws surrounding them. I intend to give you, the site owner, the fundamental knowledge you need to know to give the best possible user experience and stay on the right side of data privacy laws.

What is a browser cookie?

A cookie is a small file stored in a user's web browser. Typically, the cookie stores information about a user to enhance their experience. For example, it could include what was in a user's shopping cart on an e-commerce site. It could store a user's preferred location on a weather site to give them relevant weather data. Cookies can also store information about how users navigate websites to help designers and marketers improve their functionality. Some cookies are essential to the normal function of a website. Some are not. Each type of cookie requires a different approach to consent. There are a few types of cookies you should be aware of:

  • Functional Cookies 
  • Marketing Cookies 
  • Analytics Cookies 

What risks are involved in using cookies?

Cookies are a tool for keeping small pieces of information about users to make their website experience as streamlined and relevant as possible. They do have some drawbacks. The main one is storing the cookie in a user's web browser. This makes the information accessible by any other website they might visit. If a user visits a malicious site after yours, that site can access all the information you have gathered about the user. When storing user data, it is important to know when to use cookies and when to use more secure measures. Sensitive personal data like addresses, passwords and bank account information, must be stored in a secure database. Only your site should be able to access that information. Information such as shopping cart items, Wordle streaks and preferred weather locations, can be stored in cookies.

Not all data stored in cookies requires consent. Some cookies do not contain personal data and are considered essential for the function of a website or app. These do not require user consent. Examples of data that do not require user consent are:

  • The user's login status.
  • User preferences and history, as long as the data cannot lead to identifying the user. This could include Wordle streaks, whether a user prefers dark or light mode, or shopping cart information.

If your website stores data in cookies that can identify a user, you must obtain their consent before implementing any cookie code. If your website uses third-party apps that store personal data, like analytics tools, it is up to you to obtain the consent, not the third-party. If you are unsure whether your site needs to obtain cookie consent, it is best to err on the side of caution or seek professional legal advice for clarity.

Put simply, it is the law. Anyone who uses the internet creates a digital fingerprint. Every click in a web browser provides another data point about that user. Offering the ability to opt in or out of cookie usage returns some agency to the user over the privacy of their data. Giving users this choice makes them feel more safe using your website. In a digital world where we can never be certain exactly who we are interacting with, building trust with users and providing peace of mind about their data usage cannot be understated.

The most common way is through a cookie consent banner/pop-up. We have all seen these on websites. Interestingly, many websites do not implement them correctly. At the most basic level, your cookie consent banner should have the following functionality:

  • It should explain to users the data stored in cookies and its intended use. You do not have to go into detail in the pop-up but must provide a 
  • Depending on what types of cookies you use, you should let users opt in or out of each use case. For example, a user might want to use cookies for website personalization but not want their visit tracked by analytics or marketing apps.
  • A user should be able to reject 
  • A user should be able to update their cookie consent whenever they choose. Once their consent preferences are set, have a clear location for them to update their preferences.
  • Under no circumstances 


Knowing when and how to obtain cookie consent from website users is fraught with uncertainty. Take the time to learn and understand the kind of cookies you use. Then, inform your users and give them the option to opt in or out of cookie use. Granted, some cookies are essential for the ordinary function of your site and do not require user consent. Anything else probably does. If you are unsure what your website needs, speak to a legal professional to get accurate and up-to-date advice on what information you need to provide to your users. By being open and transparent about how we use user data, we can build trust with our users and show them they can feel safe using our websites and apps.