Written by Harriet Botwright

Do you ever feel like you are always being watched? That is because everything we do online leaves a footprint. Our every move is being monitored. From the moment we turn our phones on, our built in GPS is tracking our every move and what we search is recorded for future recommendations. Do we have any privacy anymore?

What are cookies?

You’re at work checking your emails, hoping a miracle will arise. There it is, amazingly cheap prices on flights to somewhere warm this Christmas. You book it spontaneously, without realising you have just put stored all your summer stuff away ready for winter. Resulting to online shopping over the weekend, trying to find bikinis amongst the fur coats and warm mittens. Then, something peculiar has happened. Your sponsored posts on Instagram are now showing summer clothes in November, the irony. How did they know?

Welcome to cookies. Not the delicious, warm cookies you dunk in your milk but computer cookies. Whenever you visit a website, it sends the cookie to your computer which is then stored in a file located inside your web browser. Sound a little invasive?

The purpose of cookies

Computer cookies allow websites to keep track of your visits and activity. This is great for online retailers to keep track of the items we are putting in our bags as we keep scrolling through.

Without these cookies, our shopping cart would reset every time we clicked on a new item. Now that would be incredibly frustrating!

Computer cookies create a personable shopping experience online that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to get in-store. They allow more tailored advertisements to make your shopping experience that little bit easier.

In recent news…

Unsplash Robin Worrall

On the topic of invading privacy, the Spain government have recently gotten into some trouble by tracking millions of Spanish mobile phone users after many believe their privacy has been lost. 

The statistics agency INE are performing an eight-day project with Movistar, Vodafone and Orange to track millions of Spaniards movements from their place of work, to their whereabouts on days off. 

This instantly raised alarm bells for me. Imagine knowing your every move is being tracked, even when you are in the comfort of your own home. This sounds a little like stalking to me.

The first part of the study has already started on Monday 18th to Thursday 21st November, looking specifically at the phone users between midnight and 06:00 and then later between 09:00 and 18:00. The second part of the study will be taking place on Christmas Day and two days next summer.

Christmas Day seems a little intrusive to me. I think they would be incredibly disappointed to find out I am usually passed out on the sofa in a food coma for the whole day.

As I read further into this project, I discovered that anyone who wanted to take part in the study would be paid a total of €500,000 (£430,000). Now this sounds more like it. That’s enough money to pay off your mortgage, to buy a few luxury cars or even go and travel the world. All of that to just be followed for eight days. Would you be willing to do this?