What is a third-party cookie?
A third-party cookie is a cookie that's placed on a user's device -- computer, cellphone or tablet -- by a website from a domain other than the one the user is visiting.
Third-party cookies are most frequently used for online advertising. These cookies track a user's browsing history and activities so they can present them with personalized ads for products and services. For example, if a user searches for party décor, their screen might pop up with party décor ads on multiple websites, especially social media websites such as Facebook. The user is now seeing these ads because their web browser stored a third-party cookie and is using this information to send them targeted ads.
However, third-party cookies are on their way out. With the exception of Google Chrome, browsers such as Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox block third-party cookies by default. Google is expected to stop the use of third-party cookies by the end of 2024.
First-party cookies vs. third-party cookies
Both types of cookies are text files made up of bits of information that websites use to collect user data. Cookies typically store user data such as web surfing and personalization preferences and tracking information. The difference between the two types of cookies is who uses that cookie data and for whom the cookie collects data.
First-party cookies. The website owner places a first-party cookie on a website to collect user data they can use. First-party cookies are often used to improve user experience by remembering user preferences and settings. They're also used to store information, such as items a user has added to their online retail shopping cart, usernames, passwords and language preferences. Site owners can use first-party cookies to provide services such as live chat.
Third-party cookies. A third-party cookie is placed on a website by someone other than the owner -- a third party -- to collect user data for the third party. As with standard cookies, third-party cookies are placed so that a site can remember something about the user. Third-party cookies, however, are often set by advertising networks that a website might subscribe to in the hopes of driving up sales or page views. For example, if a user visits a website named news.com, a cookie placed on this domain by news.com is a first-party cookie. A cookie placed by any other site, such as an advertiser or social media site, is a third-party cookie.
In contrast to first-party cookies, which can only gather user data when users interact with the owner's website, third-party cookies track users across several websites, providing a more comprehensive picture of user behavior.
Cookies in general can also be referred to as Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) cookies, web cookies and browser cookies. Third-party cookies are also known as trackers.
How third-party cookies work
When creating a cookie, cookie attributes are specified in the HTTP response header that determines whether the cookie is a first or third party. The SameSite attribute lets the creator of the cookie determine whether the cookie becomes a third-party cookie or a first-party -- or same-site -- cookie. When a user makes a request to the browser or performs any action on the site, the cookie attributes determine if and when cookies are sent along with the response.
For example, if a website user requests an image from the same site domain, the cookie with the SameSite attribute records user information. If the user requests an image from a third-party site, where the domain name isn't the same, a cookie with the SameSite attribute won't collect user information across sites.
The SameSite attribute determines that the cookie will be first party. Within SameSite, there are a descriptors:
- If the cookie creator sets SameSite to "Strict," the cookie is strictly first party and won't ever be sent on cross-site requests. It's activated when the domain of both parties in the exchange come from the same web domain. This setting works well for remembering user preferences on the site but won't work for a request coming from an external link. For example, if the user clicks on a site link in an email from a friend, the cookie won't be sent because the user is coming from a different domain.
- If the cookie is set to "Lax," it will be sent on certain cross-site requests. Lax means the cookie is sent with secure, top-level navigation, which means the URL does change. Lax doesn't allow third-party sites to POST, or load, information on the original user site. This means that a third-party cookie set to Lax can be sent when a user clicks a link to the cookie's site but can't load advertisements from another site in an inline frame (iframe), for example, as this uses the HTTP command POST, which is considered less secure.
- If no specification is made, all requests are subject to cookies, and the cookie is by definition a third-party cookie. It doesn't restrict POST requests, which advertisers, social networks and other third parties can use to load information from their site. This lack of specification makes cookies useful for advertisers because they often use methods that don't fit the criteria of "SameSite = Strict" and "SameSite = Lax." For example, an external site makes a GET request that doesn't change the URL as a top-level navigation. This action -- which could be an <iframe> or <img> request -- is blocked by both Lax and Strict. Having no specification allows that type of communication, in which a page is loaded inside another page. This is a common way for advertisements to appear on web pages.
Why third-party cookies are used and who uses them
Both advertisers and social media sites rely heavily on user data to inform the content they curate and generate. User profiles can be created from this data to inform how information is presented to the user, whether it's an advertisement pop-up or a social media feed.
How to tell when a website uses third-party cookies
To determine if a website is using third-party cookies, you can manually access the browser settings or use a free online cookie checker tool.
Instructions vary for different browsers Here's how to check for third-party cookies in Chrome.:
- Press Ctrl + Shift + I and choose Application > Storage > Cookies.
- Verify the domain of the cookie list. It's possible to tell if a website is using third-party cookies if the domain is different from the one being used or maintained at the moment.
Similarly for Firefox and Safari, open the developer console or inspect element and check for cookies.
Enabling, disabling and blocking cookies in Google Chrome
Third-party cookies are often blocked and deleted through browser settings and security settings such as the same-origin policy, which lets scripts contained in a first webpage access data in a second webpage as long as both webpages have the same origin. Browsers such as Firefox and Safari block third-party cookies by default.
Blocking third-party cookies doesn't create login issues on websites -- which can be an issue after blocking first-party cookies -- and could result in the user seeing fewer targeted ads on the internet. But blocking all cookies can sometimes lead to problems, as some websites rely on first-party cookies to function properly.
The following steps can enable or disable cookies in Google Chrome:
- Open Chrome.
- Click on the three dots in the upper right-hand corner of the browser window.
- Scroll down and click "Settings" and select the Privacy and Security section.
- Click on "Cookies and site data." The following options appear:
- Allow all cookies.
- Block third-party cookies in incognito.
- Block third-party cookies.
- Block all cookies.
Third-party cookies and data privacy
Third-party cookies and cookies in general pose a significant data security risk and are viewed by some as infringing on user privacy rights. This is why several of the main browsers now block third-party cookies by default. In 2011, the European Union passed the cookie law that requires users to be informed of the cookies they'll be interacting with upon visiting a site.
Cookies related to authentication normally have a security flag that instructs the browser to only access the cookie using secure channels such as Secure Sockets Layer or Transport Layer Security. If not transmitted using these channels, hackers can eavesdrop and gain access.
- Cross-site request forgery.
- Cross-site scripting.
- Session hijacking.
What's happening to third-party cookies?
There has been a general move away from third-party cookies as consumers demand online privacy and have concerns about their personal data being mishandled by third parties. Millions of users are turning to ad blockers and private browsing, while privacy regulations are limiting the ability of companies to collect and use personal data, including the General Data Protection Regulation and California Consumer Privacy Act. Despite the fact that the birth of cookies three decades ago launched a $600 billion digital advertising industry, tech giants are now paying heed to consumers and have pledged to stop supporting them. While blocking third-party cookies increases user privacy and security, it does create problems for consumer tracking and ad serving firms, which often place ads that follow users around the web.
For marketers and advertisers, the eventual phase-out of third-party cookies doesn't come as a surprise. Google first revealed its intentions in February 2020 to gradually phase out third-party cookies on Chrome by 2022. Google later revised its plans to delay phasing out third-party cookies until 2024, primarily because it wanted advertisers to have more time to change their advertising tactics and test out new, less-intrusive targeted advertising technology. Once phased out, Google won't give users the option to turn third-party cookies back on.
What are some alternatives to third-party cookies?
According to recent Adobe research, 75% of marketing and customer experience leaders globally continue to rely heavily on third-party cookies. As it affects their survival, many web publishers have tried to undermine these changes by using other techniques such as cookie respawning, Flash cookies, entity tags and canvas fingerprinting.
The following are some alternatives to third-party cookies:
Browser fingerprinting. A browser fingerprint consists of a collection of details about the user, such as the type of browser they're using, the contents of their browser cache, their location and their time zone. It collects this information in a hash value, and the collector of the information can then look for that same combination of details and follow users around the web with accuracy.
Identity solutions. Identification options track users by using personal information, such as an email address, a phone number or a login ID. Personal information from website visitors is gathered and provided to an ID provider. The user's personal information is then encrypted or hashed to preserve their privacy before matching to an existing ID or creating a new ID. Because it can be used on various websites, channels and platforms, an ID formed with a persistent user identification, such as an email address, is referred to as a universal identifier.
Google topics. In 2019, Google launched the Privacy Sandbox, a search engine initiative to fulfill rising consumer expectations for more privacy. When it was first introduced, the Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) was its focus. It was developed with the intention of creating groups of users with similar surfing preferences that could be shared with advertisers while preserving the user's anonymity. Nonetheless, methods of FLoC exploitation -- such as reverse engineering the algorithm -- have emerged, which could still let trackers create a unique digital fingerprint of the user. FLoC was finally transformed into Google Topics, which also uses the Chrome browser. Google Topics tracks a user's weekly usage to identify a select few topics that best reflect their top interests over the course of three weeks.
Contextual advertising. Internet advertisements that target users depending on the content of the website they're visiting are known as contextual advertising. Users don't need to give up any privacy because only ads that are pertinent to their interests are aimed at them. For instance, if a user was previously browsing a sports website and then clicked on a clothing website, they would only see sports-related advertisements on the sports page. This ensures that when users navigate between websites, their privacy is safeguarded.
Walled gardens. A walled garden is a closed environment where businesses are permitted to gather and use user data. Google, Facebook and Amazon are common examples. Businesses can keep a high level of confidence in the identification and conduct of users by managing the data that goes into and out of their ecosystem. Walled gardens are constructed based on logged-in users, letting them track each individual across devices. Walled gardens use a first-party platform, so third-party cookies aren't required.
Many marketing and sales operations depend on third-party cookies, whereas first-party cookies are used to gauge user engagement. Learn what makes the two cookies different from one another.
A third-party cookie is placed on a website by someone other than the owner -- a third party -- to collect user data for the third party. As with standard cookies, third-party cookies are placed so that a site can remember something about the user.What does third party cookies mean? ›
Unlike a first-party cookie set by the website's server, a third-party cookie is usually set by a third-party domain/server (i.e. an ad-based vendor). Third-party cookies are dropped via a specific vendor code or tag deployed on a particular website and stored under a different domain.Is it safe to allow third party cookies? ›
It's a good idea to decline third-party cookies. If you don't decline, the website could sell your browsing data to third parties. Sharing your personal information with third parties without giving you any control over it could also leave you vulnerable.What are cookies in tech talk? ›
Cookies are text files with small pieces of data — like a username and password — that are used to identify your computer as you use a computer network. Specific cookies known as HTTP cookies are used to identify specific users and improve your web browsing experience.What is an example of a third party? ›
Third parties are individuals or entities that help facilitate a transaction but are not one of the primary parties. Common examples of third parties include mediators, payment processors, real estate escrow companies, and delivery services.What can third party cookies see? ›
Third-party cookies are most frequently used for online advertising. These cookies track a user's browsing history and activities so they can present them with personalized ads for products and services.How do I turn off third party cookies? ›
- On your Android device, open Chrome .
- At the top right, tap More. Settings.
- Tap Site settings. Cookies.
- Select an option: Allow cookies. Block all cookies (not recommended). Block third-party cookies in Incognito. Block third-party cookies.
To check if your cookies are from a third party, use the browser's developer console, where you can check the domain that sets the cookies. If it is not the same as your website domain, then it is a third-party cookie.Should I remove third party cookies? ›
Third-party cookies follow you around the web, but they have no impact on user experience. This is why you should always block third-party cookies if given the option. Third-party cookies are also known as tracking cookies, because they “track” your behavior to serve more relevant ads to you.What is the difference between cookies and third party cookies? ›
When you use a browser, like Chrome, it saves some information from websites in its cache and cookies. Clearing them fixes certain problems, like loading or formatting issues on sites.Should I accept cookies from websites? ›
If you are disclosing private information on a website, and they ask if you want to accept the cookies policy, it is best to pass and decline. Because this personal information can be used to access accounts, such as your bank account, you should keep that information away from the data-mining websites.How do I refuse to accept cookies? ›
- On your computer, open Chrome.
- At the top right, click More. Settings.
- Under "Privacy and security," click Site settings.
- Click Cookies and site data.
- From here, you can: Turn on cookies: Next to "Blocked," turn on the switch. Turn off cookies: Turn off Allow all cookies.
- Communist Party USA.
- Freedom Socialist Party.
- Justice Party USA.
- People's Party.
- Party for Socialism and Liberation.
- Peace and Freedom Party.
- Socialist Action.
- Socialist Equality Party.
In commerce, a "third-party source" means a supplier (or service provider) who is not directly controlled by either the seller (first party) nor the customer/buyer (second party) in a business transaction.What are the third party apps? ›
Any and all apps that are not developed by the manufacturer of the devices or the owner of the website on which the apps are used are known as third-party apps. So yes, Apple users, every Google app you use is a third-party app for you.Can cookies track who you are? ›
Yes, some cookies track IP addresses from users when they visit a website. The use of such tracking cookies is regulated in most parts of the world, and under the EU's GDPR, California's CCPA/CPRA, Brazil's LGPD and South Africa's POPIA, IP addresses are considered personal data/information.Can cookies reveal your identity? ›
Yes, sometimes cookies can be used to identify an individual, but cookies themselves do not contain any personal information. Cookies contain a unique ID which is a random string of characters assigned to a user's web browser.Can someone see my cookies? ›
A cookie can only be read by the site that created it
Cookies are extremely important to security and privacy, and it would be a disaster if one website was able to read cookies from another website, so a lot of care is taken by browser developers to ensure that cookies can only be read by the site that created them.
So, what happens when you clear cookies? The information stored by websites and advertisers on your computer is removed. You'll enter your login information each time you visit a new website and it may take longer to load.
The loss of third-party cookies will make it much harder for advertisers to track users across the web and serve them targeted ads. This will lead to less effective advertising and could reduce the overall size of the digital advertising industry.Where are third-party cookies in settings? ›
Chrome on Android
Tap the three vertical dots on the top right corner in Chrome and select Settings. Find the advanced section and go to Site Settings. Inside the site settings, tap cookies and tick the “Allow 3rd party cookies” checkbox. Close and reload the browser.
Safari and Firefox web browsers are already blocking third-party cookies by default for years, and Google's Chrome will stop using them by the end of 2023. Google is developing a Privacy Sandbox strategy as an alternative to third-party cookies.What is the benefit of blocking third-party cookies? ›
The majority of contemporary web browsers do indeed let users block third-party cookies. By prohibiting advertisers and other third-party domains from tracking a user's behavior across various websites, blocking third-party cookies can help to preserve user privacy.When should I block cookies? ›
If you are okay with cross-site tracking and displayed ads while browsing, you don't have to block third-party cookies. But, if you don't want third parties like ad networks to collect data about you or don't want to be shown ads, you can block third-party cookies on your browser settings.Why you shouldn't delete cookies? ›
It's important to keep in mind that deleting cookies doesn't eliminate all data tracking. Many websites can reconstruct your cookies, unless you clear your cache and browsing history, too. Even then, though, your device can still be fingerprinted.What a third-party cookie is and why it can be a nuisance? ›
Third-party cookies allow advertisers to track users across various sites to create user-specific interest profiles. This lets advertisers gear ads toward a user's personal preferences. Firefox and Safari to block third-party cookies.Is Google ending third-party cookies? ›
Starting in early 2024, Google plans to migrate 1% of Chrome users to Privacy Sandbox and disable third-party cookies for them, the company announced today. Google's plan to completely deprecate third-party cookies in the second half of 2024 remains on track.Why third-party cookies are an invasion or privacy? ›
Since tracking cookies are used to gather information about you without your authorization, they present a real threat to your online privacy. Tracking cookies like third-party cookies aren't used to enhance your experience but rather to keep track of your activity across certain websites.Does deleting cookies delete passwords? ›
Will clearing cookies delete passwords? Yes, clearing cookies will wipe saved passwords from autofill settings saved on web browsers.
It's best to delete your search history at least twice a month to reduce the chances of getting hacked.Does clearing history clear cookies? ›
Clearing your website visit history is simple: click History > Clear History. In the pop-up, pick a timeframe for how far back you want to erase. This is doing a lot more than deleting the browser history, however—it also takes out your cookies and data cache.What will happen if I accept cookies? ›
So basically, when you click on accept, you're allowing websites to install cookie scripts on your device. These scripts are saved on your browser, and every time you go back to the same website, they'll remember your preferences.Do cookies collect personal data? ›
Yes — when cookies can be used to identify or single out individuals — they are considered personal data under the laws such as the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR), the ePrivacy Directive (EU Cookie Law), and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).What can cookies tell you? ›
Cookies can reveal a lot about you, including your web browsing history, the information you've entered into forms, your web search history, and even your location. Cookies are not designed to "identify" you, as in your name or your "real-world" identity.Is it better to accept or reject cookies? ›
If you are on a site where you need to share private data like your social security number, banking information or other personal information that you don't want stored, you should decline cookies. Allowing cookies on sites like this could open you up to larger problems like identity theft or stolen credit cards.Can cookies be used to hack? ›
Surfshark's Cookie pop-up blocker is one of several browser extension features designed to improve your browsing experience. The tool rejects all possible cookies, so you won't need to deal with pop-ups every time you open a new website.What is the purpose of third parties? ›
Voters seldom pick third-party and independent candidates, but the outsider candidates make their mark by adding their ideas to the agenda. “The most important role of third parties is to bring new ideas and institutions into politics.Who is considered a third-party? ›
A third-party is any company or individual with which or whom you have entered into a business relationship to: Provide goods and services for your own use. Perform outsourced functions on your behalf. Provide access to markets, products and other types of services.
Third-party insurance is a type of insurance where one party (the insured) pays premiums to an insurance company (the second party) in return for protection against claims filed against the insured by a third party.What is 3rd party Risk? ›
Third-party risk is the likelihood that your organization will experience an adverse event (e.g., data breach, operational disruption, reputational damage) when you choose to outsource certain services or use software built by third parties to accomplish certain tasks.What is the largest third party in America? ›
As of March 2021, it is the largest third party in the United States, claiming nearly 700,000 registered voters across 28 states and the District of Columbia.
The third-party doctrine is a United States legal doctrine that holds that people who voluntarily give information to third parties—such as banks, phone companies, internet service providers (ISPs), and e-mail servers—have "no reasonable expectation of privacy" in that information.How can you tell if a app is third party? ›
- Go to the "Settings" app.
- Tap "Apps & notifications"
- Tap "See all apps"
- Scroll through the list of apps to see which ones are third-party apps.
- Visit your app drawer section.
- Tap on the three dots that are present at the upper-right of the device screen.
- Click on the home screen settings. It will navigate you to the Hide apps menu; tap on it.
- Here, you will see the hidden apps that are not showing in the app list.
Examples of unauthorized third-party apps include:
Snapchat++ Phantom. Sneakaboo. SnapTools.
Deleting 3rd party tracking cookies on browser exit prevents cross-session tracking. Not accepting them in the first place prevents cross-tab tracking. The former is a weaker protection than the latter.Is it safe to allow cookies? ›
Yes, most cookies are safe to accept. They're intended to personalize your online experience and add to your convenience when using a website. Third-party cookies, on the other hand, may not be safe to accept.What is the difference between first party cookies and third party cookies? ›
Differences between First and Third Party Cookies
In the Safari app on your Mac, choose Safari > Settings, then click Privacy. Deselect “Block all cookies.” Websites, third parties, and advertisers can store cookies and other data on your Mac.What is an example of a website cookie? ›
A simple example of cookies is when you open up a website and your username and password are auto-filled. Cookies provided your login information to the website. Another example is when you go online shopping on Amazon and find items that are still in your cart from your last purchasing spree.What browsers do not allow third party cookies? ›
Safari and Firefox web browsers are already blocking third-party cookies by default for years, and Google's Chrome will stop using them by the end of 2023. Google is developing a Privacy Sandbox strategy as an alternative to third-party cookies.How do I protect myself from tracking cookies? ›
- see what cookies are on your computer and delete them.
- decide what type of cookies you want to allow, including tailoring those settings by website.
- turn on private browsing mode.
If you are disclosing private information on a website, and they ask if you want to accept the cookies policy, it is best to pass and decline. Because this personal information can be used to access accounts, such as your bank account, you should keep that information away from the data-mining websites.Should I block all cookies? ›
If you are okay with cross-site tracking and displayed ads while browsing, you don't have to block third-party cookies. But, if you don't want third parties like ad networks to collect data about you or don't want to be shown ads, you can block third-party cookies on your browser settings.Does Facebook use third party cookies? ›
Third-party cookies are set up by a third-party server, for example, Facebook or Google. They are created when a block code that you can insert into your website creates them, this code is usually referred to as a tracking pixel.Where did third party cookies come from? ›
Brief history of third-party cookies
1994: Lou Montulli, a 23-year-old engineer at the world's then-leading web browser, Netscape, invents the cookie. His original goal was to create a tool that would help websites remember users—but couldn't be used for cross-site tracking.
There are three types of computer cookies: session, persistent, and third-party. These virtually invisible text files are all very different. Each with their own mission, these cookies are made to track, collect, and store any data that companies request.What does removing third party cookies mean? ›
The loss of third-party cookies will make it much harder for advertisers to track users across the web and serve them targeted ads. This will lead to less effective advertising and could reduce the overall size of the digital advertising industry.
Websites often have embedded content from other sources. Safari does not allow these third parties to store or access cookies or other data. Allow from websites I visit: Safari accepts cookies and website data only from websites you visit.Is it good to clear cookies on a Mac? ›
It's important to clear cookies on your Mac for several reasons, including privacy and ease of access. Cookies save and store data you've supplied on a web browser, so clearing them occasionally can help keep your internet experience as easy to use, accessible and relevant as possible.