The best ways to deal with those annoying cookie approval banners

It feels like a hassle to decline cookies. But telling a website you don't want it to collect information about you often just means one more click. — dpa

They're as ubiquitous as they are annoying: Those banners that pop up every time you visit a new website and ask you whether you approve the use of cookies by that site.

You can't proceed until you make a decision. Most people click approve just to make the banner disappear. But is that the best response?

These banners seeking user consent to cookies have become common since the European Union adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018. Several countries around the world have since adopted something similar.

Almost half of all Internet users accept all cookies without even reading the banner, a survey in Germany has found. The result is that hundreds of these small data records end up stored on your computer when you visit sites.

People shouldn't be so quick to dismiss the banners, says Rebekka Weiss from German IT association Bitkom. "Everyone should think about the fact that their information is being documented," she says. Every user should consider a few basic questions regarding cookies.

How important is data protection to me?

One option is to accept all cookies. If you do that, "you've accepted that free services have to be monetised" and have no problem with your data being used for this, Weiss says.

If that's your decision, all you have to do is click "Agree" or "Accept all." If you don't agree, move on to "Settings" or “Customise."

Here you should find a list of all the cookies that the site provider would like to use. You should be able to choose the ones you're willing to allow and then save your selection.

Which cookies should I allow?

There are roughly three categories. Technical cookies are necessary for the website to function properly, for example, ones that remember which items you placed in a shopping cart when shopping online.

Analytical cookies measure surfing behaviour. Marketing cookies ensure, among other things, that advertising tailored to the user is displayed.

"As far as possible, you should deselect everything that is not technically necessary," says consumer rights advocate Klaus Palenberg.

The most problematic cookies are those that create detailed user profiles and you should be especially sceptical about third-party cookies.

The problem is that it's often difficult to see which cookies are being set, says data protection reporter Holger Bleich. Sometimes a cookie may only show a company name and you can only guess at what it does.

The banner may list "Legitimate Interest" cookies, but this term is often "interpreted very, very broadly," Bleich says. If you're not sure about the goals of a provider, you should go through all of the cookie options individually.

How tech-savvy am I?

Those who are familiar with add-ons and browser settings can do a lot to block cookies.

For example, if you forbid the storage of third-party cookies in your browser's settings you no longer have to worry about dealing with cookie banners. You can also prevent tracking cookies to a certain extent.

Another option is to delete cookies at certain intervals. However, that means that when you revisit a page the cookie banners will pop up all over again. – dpa

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