For user

For provider

This is #DigitalCheckNRW

The #DigitalCheckNRW is an important project for the state government in NRW [North Rhine Westphalia] The aim is to enable digital participation for all citizens. You can test your own media skills via the check and fill  gaps by means of further training programs.

Easy Read

Not everyone likes cookies

I'm sure you've all been there: you're browsing the Internet, looking for a certain product, and suddenly it appears out of nowhere in advertisements on almost every website you visit. Coincidence? Probably not... What's behind this is the mechanics of web tracking (from the English: web = net, to track = follow) and cookies, which meticulously track our online activities.

But what exactly is behind these terms and how can you effectively protect yourself against them? In this article, we unravel some of the mystery and introduce you to helpful tools that will help you navigate the digital space safely and independently.

1. how do cookies work?

Imagine you are visiting an old friend who remembers that you like lemon juice in your tea. The next time you have tea, it's already ready for you with lemon, without you having to say anything. On the Internet, cookies take over this kind of attention. They remember information so that websites can remember you.

Cookies are small digital notepads that record the actions you take on the internet. When you visit a website, you leave such a digital notepad on your computer or smartphone. The next time you visit, the website reads this block and already knows, for example, which language you selected last time or what you put in your virtual shopping cart.

There are different types of cookies. Some cookies are like the entry stamp at the outdoor pool that fades at the end of the day - these are called "session cookies". Other cookies are like a stamp card in a café that is valid for a longer period of time and receives one more stamp with each visit - the "permanent cookies".

These digital cookie crumbs are pretty clever: not only do they remember your settings and preferences, they also help to show you advertising that matches your interests. If you've been looking for new tools for your garden recently, you may suddenly see ads for hoses and potting soil on different sites.

Some people feel that they are being watched if they have to allow cookies. But you can decide for yourself which cookies you want to allow. In your internet browser, you can set whether you want to delete cookies automatically or not save them at all (more on this below). However, you should bear in mind that without cookies, many settings on websites have to be changed each time, which can sometimes be inconvenient.

Cookies are like friends on the internet: They make your visit more personal and easier. But just like in real life, you should make conscious decisions online about who you give your address to and what digital traces you leave behind.

Test your digital knowledge now!

2. how you can (partially) escape tracking

In addition to cookies, there are other tracking methods. Websites use these to track what you do online. GPS, apps, IP addresses and digital fingerprints are other "levers" you can turn to minimize or at least make tracking more difficult. Even if absolute security and anonymity cannot be guaranteed, there are still some recommended measures that can be implemented without much effort:

Block cookies - These small data packets provide website operators with information about their visitors. You can set your browser to allow or block cookies. You should block third-party cookies in particular to protect your data. But be careful: completely deactivating cookies can limit the functionality of some websites. And even if the 'Do not track' option sounds tempting, unfortunately it often only offers deceptive security.

Block GPS? That's also worth considering! Although GPS helps us to obtain location-based data quickly and easily, it also makes it possible to create movement profiles. So think carefully about whether and, if so, when you allow your browser or apps to access your location.

Be careful with app permissions: Many apps require permissions that are not absolutely necessary for their function. A critical eye and refusing or restricting permissions can work wonders here to protect your digital self.

Anonymization techniques come into play when blocking IP addresses, where websites are not accessed directly but via other servers. But here too there are pitfalls and potential security gaps, especially when it comes to sending encrypted data.

And then there is the digital fingerprint, a combination of different, actually harmless pieces of information that can uniquely identify your device. This can be a combination of screen resolution, installed fonts and browser plugins. Here too, script blockers such as Ghostery or NoScriptwhich you can install on your devices, provide an additional layer of protection.

But to be clear once again: 100% protection against tracking is hardly possible as things stand at the moment. However, with virus scanners, conscious browser selection and settings, consistent deletion of history and cookies, switching off the location function, a critical look at scripts and app permissions, as well as the careful choice of search engine (internal linking) and possibly the use of a trustworthy VPN network, you can effectively protect your digital self - provided you handle your data responsibly.