Tracking pixel vs cookie. These two technologies are both used for similar purposes, such as tracking behaviors or showing ads. However, a few things differentiate them. One thing is sure, though, is that you need to comply with data privacy laws when using them!
👀 Let’s dive in.
Cookies are small data files generally stored on a user’s computer/browser. When you go back to a website you visited before, cookies remember your preferences (i.e. your password). They can have different purposes:
🔍 Learn more about what cookies track here.
When you visit a website, your browser and the web page interact with your web server. Then, your web server transfers a cookie to your device’s browser. Finally, your computer stores the cookie on your hard drive.
This means cookies allow a website to store information (i.e. a unique ID number) on a user’s machine and later retrieve it.
🔍 You are a website owner? Find out what cookies your website uses.
Cookies are great for marketing purposes, that’s a no-brainer. Though, when used for tracking behavior or showing ads, cookies can be quite invasive to user privacy. That’s why they are regulated.
🇪🇺 In Europe, under laws like the GDPR and ePrivacy, users must grant their consent before cookies or similar tracking technologies can be deployed or installed on their computer.
Taking a look at the general definition, a pixel is a measurement unit and the smallest element of a digital image. It is often presented as a small square. That’s technically also what they are in the context of tracking technologies, though used in a particular way.
What is a tracking pixel, then? Tracking pixels are transparent 1×1 images embedded in the HTML code of an email, ad, or website. It is considered a marketing pixel when used for monitoring traffic, conversions, behavior, i.e. for knowing when a visitor has clicked on an ad and then made a purchase.
💡 A Facebook tracking pixel, for instance, allows you to track ad conversions, build a targeted audience for other ads, and optimize these ads.
Tracking pixels contain a link to an external server. This server will ultimately receive some information about the user who views an ad, interacts with an email or navigates a website. This is done thanks to the user’s browser, which downloads this invisible image file (or pixel).
The following data, among others, can be obtained:
If you use tracking pixels, same as for cookies, you most likely gather some specific personal data. Pixels bring quite a few concerns in the sense that they are not visible on a website or email, and users are unaware they’re being tracked.
Under main privacy laws, you are required to disclose whether you collect any personal data that can be used to identify an individual. It is the case with pixels and therefore, you have to:
|User experience and marketing purposes (tracking user activity and behavior)||Marketing purposes (tracking user activity and behavior)|
|Cannot follow users across devices||Can follow users across devices|
|Information is placed on users’ browser||Information is sent directly to web servers by pixels|
|Can be blocked or cleared by users from the browser settings||Not easily disabled by end-user|
This can be quite complicated as tracking technologies are regulated in different ways and by various privacy laws.
As a quick reminder:
It’s easy: use our iubenda software solutions!
🚀 Select the services/technologies used on your website that collect personal data;
🚀 Choose whether to comply with US and/or European laws simultaneously, in one click;
🚀 Customize and display a consent banner, set prior blocking of trackers!
Find out which technologies run on your website:
👉 How to use iubenda site scanner