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The Power of Cookies, Algorithms and Machine Learning: How They Influence Our Decisions in the UK
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The Power of Cookies, Algorithms and Machine Learning: How They Influence Our Decisions in the UK

Have you ever noticed how advertisements on your social media feed seem to be tailored to your interests and preferences? Or how the suggested videos on YouTube are always relevant to what you have been watching recently? This is not a coincidence, but rather a result of sophisticated technologies such as third party cookies, algorithms, and machine learning. These technologies have been developed to learn from our decisions. In this blog post, we’ll break down what third party cookies, algorithms, and machine learning are, why they’re beneficial, and their dangers.


Decoding Third Party Cookies, Algorithms and Machine Learning


What Are Third Party Cookies?

Cookies are snippets of data stored on a user’s browser by a website other than the one they are currently visiting. This small piece of code facilitates cross-site tracking, enabling businesses to gather valuable insights into user behaviour beyond the confines of their own platform. Cookies are used by websites to personalise our experience by remembering our preferences and speeding up our navigation. However, cookies can also be used to track our online behaviour and collect personal data, which can be used for targeted advertising or sold to third parties.


What is an Algorithm?

Algorithms are a set of instructions that are designed to solve a problem or perform a specific task. In the context of the internet, algorithms are used to analyse user data and provide personalised content and advertising. Algorithms are used by search engines to rank web pages, social media platforms to recommend posts, and e-commerce websites to suggest products.


What is Machine Learning?

Machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence that involves the use of algorithms to learn from data and make predictions. Machine learning algorithms can analyse large datasets and identify patterns and relationships. They are used by companies to personalised our online experience, make predictions, and automate tasks.



Enhanced User Experience

Third party cookies and algorithms are used to personalise our online experience by providing content and advertising that is relevant to our interests and preferences. For example, if you have been searching for flights to Paris, you may see advertisements on other websites for hotels in Paris or flights to other European cities. This personalisation can make our online experience more enjoyable and efficient, but it can also make us more vulnerable to targeted advertising and manipulation.


Convenience and Efficiency

Third party cookies facilitate seamless browsing by maintaining session information, reducing the need for you to repeatedly log in or re-enter information during a single session. Similarly, algorithms enhance various online services, making them more efficient, for example, navigation apps on your phone use algorithms to suggest the fastest routes, saving you time and improving overall user experience.


Data Security and Safety

Some machine learning and algorithms serve the purpose of keeping you safe online by detecting and preventing fraudulent activities, protecting consumers from threats such as identity theft and financial fraud.


Decision Support

Algorithms, particularly in search engines, improve the accuracy of search results by understanding your intent, and as a result, you are provided with more relevant information. When it comes to managing your finances, machine learning algorithms in financial apps analyse spending patterns, offering you insights for better financial management and decision-making.


Precise Targeting for Ad Campaigns

One of the notable advantages of these technologies lies in their ability to fuel targeted advertising. Third party cookies contribute to targeted advertising, ensuring that you see ads that are more relevant to their interests and preferences. Advertisers can create more engaging and less intrusive online advertising experiences, enhancing overall user satisfaction.


Comprehensive Analytics

Cookies and machine learning are used to analyse our purchasing behaviour and make predications about our future buying habits. For example, if you frequently buy organic food, you may see advertisements for other organic products. This can influence our purchasing decisions and make use more likely to buy products that we may not have otherwise considered.


Exploring the Dangers


Privacy Concerns

While third party cookies offer invaluable insights, privacy concerns have led to increased scrutiny. Striking a balance between personalisation and respecting privacy is a challenge. Investing in transparent data practices and obtaining user consent can pave the way for responsible use. In the UK, GDPR provides individuals with certain rights over their personal data, including the right to access, correct, and delete their data. By exercising these rights and being proactive about protecting our online data, we can ensure that our online experience is both enjoyable and secure.


Manipulation and Bias

Algorithms can shape our opinions by showing us content that reinforces our existing beliefs and values. This is known as the ‘echo chamber’ effect, where we are exposed only to information that confirms our biases. This can lead to polarisation and lack of diverse opinions. Similarly, machine learning models may reinforce biases based off the data set that they learn from, resulting in discriminatory outcomes.


Security Risks

Third party cookies can be exploited by malicious advertisers or trackers for intrusive ad practices, leading to potentially harmful online experiences. The reliance on machine learning in critical areas, such as security systems, introduces the risk of adversarial attacks, where the algorithms are manipulated to produce unintended outcomes.


Lack of Transparency

The complex nature of machine learning algorithms can make decision-making processes opaque, leaving consumers like you in the dark about how certain decisions are reached, reducing trust. As a consumer, you might be unaware of the extent to which their data is being collected, shared, and used by third parties, leading feeling like you have a lack of control over your digital footprint.



There’s no denying that today’s technology such as third party cookies, algorithms, and machine learning has massively transformed the way we browse the internet and our various devices, creating a much better user experience. However, they also have the potential to influence our decisions and compromise our privacy and security, so it’s important to be aware of the potential dangers they pose. Learn more about your own data security and privacy practices by downloading the Vault app on Google Play or the App Store – it’s a must-have for any data security and protection toolkit!