An experiment conducted by the U.S. daily The Washington Post found that its computer system received more than 11,000 requests for advertising cookies during a week that would have been downloaded automatically if it had used Google’s search engine, Chrome.
The experiment was conducted by technology columnist Geoffrey Fowler of the U.S. newspaper, who for an entire week did the same online activities he normally does with Chrome (the world’s most widely used) with the non-profit Mozilla’s Firefox browser. Unlike Chrome, which automatically downloads cookies from each web page into the user’s system, Firefox (just like Apple’s Safari) alerts the user when a portal requests to download these “cookies,” allowing the user to keep track of 11,189 requests.
Cookies are pieces of information that web pages download into the computer system and that contain data relating to the user’s privacy or activities (e.g., usernames and passwords, product searches, contents of virtual shopping carts, etc.). They were created in the mid-nineties with the aim that the user would not have to re-enter these data each time he or she accessed the website, as well as to facilitate online browsing and reduce interruptions without overloading the servers with information.
However, another usefulness was quickly found: to carry out a “monitoring” of the activity and the characteristics of the Internet user in order to be able to show personalized advertisements that fit better with their interests and affinities, a lucrative business that in recent years has been dominated fundamentally by two companies: Google and Facebook. Thus, for example, when an Internet user accesses the website of a third party that has nothing to do with Google or Facebook, if this website has the option of giving “I like” to their profile on the social network or displays ads promoted by Google, these two companies will have access to the user’s cookies if the browser allows it.
Therefore, from The Washington Post directly recommended readers who are concerned about the privacy of their data to stop using Chrome and surf the net with Firefox or Safari, much more restrictive when allowing the sending of advertising cookies.