Cookies are how websites allow you to “stay logged in” or have a shopping cart, or just about anything that a website does now a days. Yes, cookies can be used to track what you do, but there are plenty of other ways to do it too.
Cookies were misunderstood when they were new, causing a lot of paranoia and confusion. At the same time, there was an anti-Google misinformation campaign being run by Microsoft which amplified the confusion. Now Microsoft is also in the web business, so that campaign has stopped, but we’re all left dealing with the results. One of those results is a law saying that websites have to warn European users that cookies are in use.
When microwave ovens were new, restaurants would put up signs warning customers “microwave ovens in use”. Now they don’t do that because it would be like saying, “water is wet”.
So what should we do instead?
The warning shouldn’t be per-website. It should be per browser. The first time you run a web browser it should put up a big warning: “Hey! You are on the internet. It isn’t anonymous. The internet needs to know how to get back to your computer otherwise you’d request a website and the website wouldn’t know who to send the page to. Even sites that say they don’t track you, are really just not permanently storing the information they used to communicate with you. Even the ones that boast they don’t do any tracking are just retaining that information for minutes instead of years.”
Then we could remove all these cookie warnings and be done with it.
[Yes? You in the back row with your hand up? Oh, yes! You want to point out that some websites don’t send any cookies. Oh how very smart of you. Look, if I say that “all cats meow” you’re one of those jerks that finds the 1-in-a-million cat that doesn’t actually meow, aren’t you? Sadly it probably doesn’t meow only because you ripped its vocal cords out. You are a sick disgusting cat mutalator and should stop that. I’m going to continue saying that “all cats meow” and fuck you. Oh, and P.S… all websites send cookies.]