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Choosing the Best Cookie Audit Tool: How To Conduct a Cookie Audit With a Tool or Manually

Conducting a cookie audit is a crucial step for website and business owners to ensure they comply with privacy laws and provide a transparent online experience. Whether you choose to use a cookie audit tool or prefer a manual approach, understanding the process is essential. This guide will walk you through how to conduct a cookie audit, covering automatic and manual methods, and explain why it’s necessary.

cookie audit tool

A cookie audit is a comprehensive review of a website’s cookie usage, the small pieces of data stored on users’ devices. This audit helps identify what cookies your website uses, their purpose, and whether they comply with privacy regulations. It’s a fundamental component of website privacy management.

What are Cookies and How Do They Work?

Cookies are small text files placed on a user’s device by a website to store information. This information can include a wide range of data, from user preferences to tracking data for analytics, like login details, language preferences, shopping cart contents, among others. Cookies are also categorized based on their origin, duration, and purpose:

First-party and Third-party Cookies

  • First-party cookies are created by the website you’re visiting. They are often used to remember your preferences within the site.
  • Third-party cookies are created by domains other than the one you are visiting directly, usually for advertising or analytics purposes.

Necessary and Non-essential Cookies

  • Strictly necessary cookies are essential for a website to function properly, like those needed for a shopping cart.
  • Non-essential cookies are not strictly necessary but enhance the user experience, such as analytics cookies.

Session and Persistent Cookies

  • Session cookies last for a single session and disappear after you close your browser.
  • Persistent cookies remain on your device for a set period or until you delete them, remembering your preferences across multiple sessions.

Laws Governing Cookies

As digital privacy becomes a significant concern globally, various laws have been enacted to protect users’ information on the internet. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Brazil’s General Data Protection Law (LGPD), govern how personal data should be lawfully processed. Also, the ePrivacy Directive in the EU, often called the Cookie Law, specifically regulates how websites can use cookies and other tracking technologies.

Here is a brief overview of the main aspects of each of these laws:

Feature/Regulation GDPR (EU) ePrivacy Directive (EU) LGPD (Brazil)
Effective Date 5/25/2018 31/07/2002 9/18/2020
Geographical Scope Applies to all entities that process the personal data of EU residents, regardless of the entity’s location. Applies within the EU, but affects websites outside the EU if they target or offer services to EU residents. Applies to any operation of personal data processing carried out by a person or entity of public or private law, irrespective of means or location, if the processing is in Brazil.
Consent for Cookies Defines standards for what constitutes valid consent: must be explicit, informed, and freely given. Specifically requires prior consent for storing or accessing cookies on a user’s device, except those strictly necessary for operation. Sets general standards for consent, which must be explicit and informed.
User Rights Extensive rights including access, rectification, deletion, withdrawal of consent, objection to processing, restriction of processing, data portability, and protection against automated decisions and profiling. Users must be provided clear and comprehensive information about the use of cookies. Rights to confirm, access, rectify, anonymize, block, delete personal data, and data portability.
Penalties Up to €20 million or 4% of the annual global turnover, whichever is higher. Penalties vary by EU member state. Fines up to 2% of revenue in Brazil for the last fiscal year, excluding taxes, limited to 50 million reais per violation.
Transparency High level of transparency required about data processing activities. Requires clear information about cookie usage and purposes. High level of transparency required regarding data processing activities, ensuring clear, adequate, and easily accessible information about the processing and its purposes.

Why You Need To Audit Cookies

Auditing cookies is essential for several key reasons:

  • Comply with Laws: Adhere to GDPR, LGPD, ePrivacy Directive, etc.
  • Build Trust: Transparently share cookie practices with users.
  • Enhance Experience: Remove unnecessary cookies to speed up the site.
  • Secure Data: Secure cookies to prevent security breaches.
  • Ensure Accuracy: Keep tracking technologies updated for reliable data.
  • Stay Current: Adapt to new privacy laws and technology changes.
  • Promote Privacy: Incorporate privacy into your company culture.

📌 How To Conduct a Cookie Audit Automatically

Utilize Automatic Cookie Audit Tools ✅

For those seeking an efficient and hassle-free method, utilizing automatic a cookie audit tool or a site scanner is highly recommended. These tools are designed to scan your website comprehensively, identifying all types of cookies and tracking scripts present. By automating the audit process, tools like iubenda can significantly save time and increase the accuracy of your audit, ensuring you have a complete inventory of cookies used on your site.

👉 This method is ideal for website owners and businesses looking to streamline their cookie compliance efforts while minimizing manual effort.

Find out what cookies are running on your site

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📌 How To Conduct a Cookie Audit Manually

Conducting a cookie audit manually (without using an automatic cookie audit tool) is a thorough and time-consuming approach that contrasts with the efficiency and ease of an automated cookie audit tool.

This method requires more time and effort, but equally provides a comprehensive understanding of your website’s cookie landscape. Here’s how you can perform a manual cookie audit effectively (Without an automatic cookie audit tool):

Step 1: Identify Cookies

Checking Cookies in Chrome

    • Open Chrome and navigate to your website.

    • Right-click, select “Inspect,” then go to the “Application” tab.

    • Look under “Cookies” in the left sidebar to see the cookies your site uses.

Checking Cookies in Firefox

    • Visit your site in Firefox.

    • Right-click, choose “Inspect Element,” and click the “Storage” tab.

    • Select “Cookies” to view your site’s cookies.

Step 2: Analyze Cookies

Cookie analysis is a critical and time-consuming step in a manual audit process, but one that provides information about what each cookie does, who owns it, and why it is being used. This is vital information for understanding the implications of these cookies on your website, especially in terms of user privacy and legal compliance.

When analyzing cookies, you’ll need to look at several key attributes:

    • Name: The identifier for the cookie, which can sometimes indicate its purpose.

    • Value: The information the cookie stores, which can range from a simple session ID to more complex data.

    • Domain: This shows where the cookie is being sent to and can help differentiate between first-party and third-party cookies.

    • Path: Determines the part of the website where the cookie is active.

    • Expiration: The lifespan of the cookie. Session cookies expire when the session ends, while persistent cookies remain until their expiration date.

    • Secure: Indicates if the cookie is sent only over HTTPS, enhancing security.

    • HttpOnly: Specifies whether the cookie is accessible only through HTTP requests, which helps mitigate the risk of cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks.

Step 3: Categorize Cookies

Each cookie on your website serves a specific purpose, ranging from essential functionality to tracking user behavior. Categorize cookies based on their function:

    • Essential: Necessary for the website to function correctly. For example, cookies that manage shopping cart contents or user authentication.

    • Performance and Analytics: Collect data on how users interact with the site, such as pages visited and links clicked. These help in improving site performance.

    • Functionality: Remember user preferences, like language settings or layout choices, enhancing the user experience.

    • Advertising: Track users across websites to display targeted advertising based on browsing behavior.

💡 While manually analyzing cookies provides a deep understanding of each cookie’s use and compliance requirements, it is a time-consuming and complex process. However, as we said before, one of the most effective, efficient, and hassle-free method to conduct this analysis is through the use of an automatic cookie audit tool or site scanner. These tools streamline the audit process by offering a comprehensive overview of your website’s cookie usage without the need for extensive technical knowledge or the manual checking of each cookie.

Step 4: Look for Compliance Issues

This step is essential because it directly addresses the legal and regulatory obligations associated with the use of cookies on your website. Here’s how to delve deeper into this process:

Understanding Legal Frameworks

First, familiarize yourself with the relevant legal frameworks that govern the handling of personal data and cookie usage. This includes:

    • ePrivacy Directive (Cookie Law): Requires websites to obtain user consent before any files are saved or read on the user’s device, in the context of cookies that are not strictly necessary for the operation of the website or app.

    • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): For websites operating within or targeting individuals in the European Union, while the GDPR doesn’t directly mandate consent for cookies, it defines the standards for what constitutes valid consent for processing personal data. These standards apply to any cookies that collect personal data, emphasizing the need for explicit and freely given consent.

    • Brazilian General Data Protection Law (LGPD): For websites that process the data of Brazilian residents, LGPD mandates explicit consent for any personal data processing that does not fall under other legal bases. It also emphasizes transparency and the provision of clear information regarding data collection practices.

Understanding these laws will help you identify specific compliance issues that may arise in your current cookie usage.

Identifying Potential Compliance Issues

When looking for compliance issues, focus on the following areas:

    • Consent Mechanisms: Ensure that your website has a clear and user-friendly mechanism for obtaining consent for cookies, especially for non-essential ones. The mechanism should typically allow users to opt-in or opt-out easily, depending on the applicable legislation.

    • Cookie Policy: Check if your website provides clear information about the use of cookies upon first visit and if there’s an accessible, comprehensive cookie policy that details the purpose, type, and duration of each cookie.

    • Data Collection and Processing: Verify that the data collected by cookies is processed and stored according to the legal requirements, ensuring data minimization and security.

🔎 Cookie Audit: Practical Steps to Address Compliance

Step 1: Create a Cookie Policy

Your cookie policy is a detailed document that informs users about the cookies your website uses, the purpose of each cookie, its duration, and how users can control their cookie preferences. Here are some of the key points to include:

    • Introduction: Briefly explain what cookies are and why they are used, emphasizing the commitment to user privacy.

    • Details of Cookies Used: List each type of cookie (e.g., necessary, performance, analytics, and advertising cookies), including information on first-party and third-party cookies. Provide specifics such as the name, purpose, and lifespan of each cookie.

    • User Consent and Control: Clearly explain how users can give, refuse, or withdraw their consent to cookies at any time. Provide detailed instructions on how users can adjust their cookie settings as needed, ensuring they have continuous control over their privacy preferences.

    • Updates and Contact Information: Mention how users will be informed of any changes to the cookie policy and provide contact details for privacy inquiries.

Ensure your cookie policy is accessible from every page of your website, typically through the footer. 👉 Learn more about the legal requirements concerning cookies here.

Cookie Policy Example:

cookie audit tool

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Step 2: Implementing an Effective Cookie Consent Mechanism

Cookie consent solutions manage how you obtain, store, and act upon user consent regarding cookie usage. An effective cookie solution should:

    • Be Clearly Visible: Ensure the consent mechanism is prominent on the page, catching the user’s attention without being obstructive.

    • Offer Choice: Users should be able to choose which types of cookies they consent to (e.g., allowing necessary cookies while opting out of analytics and advertising cookies).

    • Facilitate Easy Withdrawal of Consent: Users should find it as easy to withdraw consent as to give it, at any time during their use of the website.

Cookie Consent Banner Example:

cookie audit tool

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Step 3: Work With a Consent Manager Solution

Given the complexity of legal requirements and the technical challenges in managing cookies and consents, using a professional solution like iubenda’s cookie consent manager is highly recommended. Consent management solutions offer:

    • Automated Compliance: Automatically adjust consent features based on the user’s location to comply with regional laws (GDPR, ePrivacy, LGPD, etc.).

    • Customizable User Interface: Tailor the appearance and language of your consent banner to match your website while ensuring it’s user-friendly.

    • Integration Ease: Seamlessly integrate with your website and existing privacy tools, simplifying the management of consents and cookie policies.

Step 4: Conduct Periodic Audits

Conducting periodic audits of your website’s cookies and consent mechanisms helps you identify changes in cookie usage, assess the effectiveness of your cookie consent solution, and adapt to new legal requirements.

Periodic Cookie Audit Checklist

🔎 Wrapping Up

Conducting a cookie audit, either manually or using a cookie audit tool like iubenda, is an essential task for any website owner. It ensures your site respects privacy laws and builds trust with your audience. Remember, whether you choose a manual cookie audit option or use a professional cookie audit tool, the goal is to maintain a transparent and secure online environment for your users.

Cookie Audit FAQs

How to do a cookie audit?

To do a cookie audit:

  1. Identify Cookies: Use browser tools to list all cookies on your site.
  2. Analyze Cookies: Determine each cookie’s purpose, lifespan, and type (first-party or third-party).
  3. Categorize Cookies: Sort cookies into necessary, performance, functionality, and advertising categories.
  4. Check for Compliance: Ensure your website’s use of cookies complies with regulations such as the ePrivacy Directive, GDPR, and LGPD. This includes implementing proper consent mechanisms for non-essential cookies as required by the ePrivacy Directive, and ensuring all personal data processing adheres to the consent standards set forth by the GDPR and LGPD.
  5. Update Cookie Policy: Revise your policy to accurately reflect your cookie use and user consent options.
  6. Implement Consent Solution: Use a platform to manage user cookie consent effectively.
  7. Conduct Periodic Audits: Regularly review your cookie usage and compliance.

How do I check cookie compliance?

To check cookie compliance, follow these steps:

  1. Understand Applicable Laws: Know the privacy laws applicable to your audience (e.g., GDPR, ePrivacy).
  2. Identify Cookies: Use browser tools, scanners, or a cookie audit tool to list all first-party and third-party cookies.
  3. Categorize Cookies: Sort cookies by type (necessary, performance, etc.) to understand their purposes.
  4. Review Consent: Ensure your site has a clear consent mechanism for non-essential cookies, allowing users to accept, reject, or modify their preferences.
  5. Check Policies: Verify that your website has an accessible and clear cookie policy explaining cookie use and user control options.
  6. Access to Preferences: Users should easily adjust their cookie preferences at any time.
  7. Document Consent: Maintain records of consents and preferences.
  8. Regular Audits: Periodically review cookie use and compliance.

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