Siteimprove Data Privacy: Cookie Tracking FAQ
By Sean Needham
What is cookie tracking?
A cookie is a small file placed by the browser onto your computer when you visit a site. This file contains records of your interaction with the site. It can remember preferences and store information provided by a website user, e.g. language selection, login details, etc.
The Siteimprove Data Privacy module includes cookie tracking which provides users with an overview of the cookies set by the selected website.
Cookie Overview Table
- Cookie name: The cookie name can be helpful in identifying the purpose of the cookie. The cookie name links to a details page showing the values of the cookie.
- Domain: The domain is the provider of the cookie. If it’s not the domain of the website currently being visited it is considered to be a "3rd party cookie".
- Path: The path indicates the pages that will set a cookie. A cookie is sent on all URLs containing the specified path in a domain. Web pages outside of that path cannot use the cookie, e.g. a path of “/” indicates that the cookie will be set on all pages.
- Expiry: Here you can see how long a cookie is stored on a visitor's computer. Cookies that are deleted once a visitor closes the web browser are called "session cookies", i.e. they expire at the end of the session. Cookies that stay on a visitor's computer beyond the end of a session are called "persistent cookies", for these the time period until the cookie expires is shown.
- Set by: Cookies are classified as 1st- or 3rd-party. 1st-party cookies are set by the same domain as the one visited, while 3rd-party cookies are set by a different domain.
- Secure: This indicates whether detected cookies are secure, not secure, or a mix. “Mixed” cookies are secure on some pages but not secure on others. A secure cookie instructs the browser that the cookie may only be sent to a server when the connection is encrypted. Cookies that are not secure will be sent to both http:// (not encrypted) and https:// (encrypted) connections. Only setting a cookie when the connection is secure prevents third parties from retrieving the data collected by the cookie.
- First detected: The date that this cookie was first detected by the Siteimprove crawler. Note: The cookie may have been present before the crawl of the website.
- Pages with this cookie: Number of pages on which the cookie was found. The page number can be clicked to show a list of the pages.
In addition to the information given in the overview table, the cookie details page provides the values of each cookies and lists the pages on which the cookie was found.
The value field on the details page can be expanded if there is more than one value. Knowing the value can help identify the purpose of a cookie if it is not clear from the name.
Users also have the option to export the data to a .csv file.
Why is it good to know what cookies are set on your website?
It is important to be aware of the cookies being sent by your website so you can assess their liability and the need for cookie consent messaging.
What if there no data in the cookies table?
The cookie table can be empty for the following reasons:
- The site has not yet been checked by our crawler.
- The site has been crawled, but there are no cookies sent from the site. Although this is unusual it can happen in some cases.
- Our crawler needs to be configured in order to be able to access the site.
If data is missing from your cookie table, feel free to contact Siteimprove Technical Support, who will be happy to investigate.
How does the crawler work with regards to cookies?
The browser agent visits each page as a new visitor starting from the top-level domain.
The browser agent visits all pages with a browser configuration to identify as many cookies as possible.
That means that if a cookie is set after 10 seconds, for example, then we will not register the cookie as the crawler has moved on to the next page.
Why can I identify more browser cookies than Siteimprove Data Privacy?
Although we configure our crawler to identify as many cookies as possible, additional cookies may be set for visitors to your website. Our crawler is configured to emulate a set of browser conditions, but variations in conditions can result in differences in the cookies that are detected.
The following types of cookies will not be detected:
- Interactive cookies triggered by user action
- Cookies set on the website more than 3 seconds after landing the page and crawling it
Cookies reading user-specific conditions and user browser-information, country-specific cookies, and cookies that for different reasons are not set each time a user enters the site, will not be detected.
Here are some examples of conditions that may affect which cookies are set by your site:
- The browser agent used to access the site, e.g. Internet Explorer may not see a Facebook like-button and the associated cookies, because Facebook has not been visited.
- Geographic location, e.g. some content and related cookies might be presented to USA users only due to legislation.
- Referrer, e.g. referrers from Reddit see specific content and are sent related cookies.
- Specific screen resolution, e.g. iPhone users get specific cookies.
- Time conditioning, e.g. some cookies may be set on a certain day, after the third visit, or when a user has been on the site for two minutes, etc.
- Login conditions e.g. users logged into a member's area or LinkedIn get specific cookies.
- The crawler waits 3 seconds for cookies to be set, if a cookie is set after this time, then we will not register it.
- All browsers have individual settings, and we can never guarantee that will find all cookies – but we have tested across Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox and Safari to be able to identify as many as possible.
- If a page requires an active acceptance of cookies, the Siteimprove Technical Support might need to configure the crawler’s browser agent. It is estimated that about 10% of our customers’ websites require a click to accept cookies. If this is the case little or no cookies will be shown in Siteimprove Data Privacy as a cookie needs to be placed on the user’s device to signify that cookies are accepted.
How can I troubleshoot if I find more browser cookies than Siteimprove Data Privacy?
To get a better idea of how the Siteimprove crawler sees your website, we suggest you simulate using a browser in incognito mode (e.g. Using Chrome in incognito mode).
To prevent seeing any previously stored cookies, open the incognito link in a new tab (i.e. right click).
Then compare the cookies found in your browser in incognito mode with those found in the Siteimprove Data Privacy module.
If there are still discrepancies that you do not understand then please contact Siteimprove Technical Support.