Ever accepted cookies without knowing what you’d consented to? Even if so, it likely won’t come as a surprise that much of what we do online is tracked and monitored somehow. Some of this is harmless, think of handy login pages that remember your email address and password, but sometimes there’s more cause for concern — for example when your personally identifiable information (PII) is shared with 3rd parties and/or stored insecurely.
That second use of data doesn’t sit right with us, so we’re making some changes. On December 15, 2022, we’re going cookie-less. That means we’re removing all 3rd party cookies from our website and only continuing to use those cookies that are strictly necessary for our web functioning. We’ll also replace Google Analytics with Matomo, an open-source web analytics tool that will anonymize our website usage data and safely store it on our own servers in Switzerland. We’ve taken this decision because certain European data protection authorities deem the usage of Google Analytics as not being compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, as written here by the Austrian Data Protection Authority and the French CNIL. We believe Matomo is the ideal alternative — “matomo,” meaning honesty in Japanese. Their user-first values of respect and privacy are more in alignment with how we want to proceed in this space.
So, what do these changes look like exactly? And what’s the difference between 3rd party cookies and necessary cookies? Keep reading, and we’ll go over the basics…
What are cookies?
Cookies are bitesize files that a website can download onto your phone, tablet, laptop, or computer to track your behavior and remember your preferences. Some cookies are necessary, and help websites deliver an intuitive user experience, while others harvest data to use for things like advertisements.
Here’s a closer look at the difference:
Functional cookies — These cookies help with general website running. For example, if a website needs to access cookies to process a payment or help you log in. These cookies might also be used to remember your details or store your preferences from a previous website visit.
Tracking cookies — These cookies tend to be the ones that people worry about. They collect and store data about customer choices and activities, which helps companies create targeted ads. You might recognize this if you’ve ever searched for hiking routes and suddenly found yourself inundated with ads for walking boots and equipment.
On the one hand, tracking cookies can be seen as useful. When the same tracker is present on multiple sites, it can help build a complete profile of your tastes, habits, and interests over time — that means the advertisements you see will be individually tailored to you. But on the other hand? Trackers harvest your personal data, and there are a couple of reasons why not everyone’s so happy about that. Firstly, while cookies aren't harmful in themselves, some people just aren’t comfortable with being targeted for marketing in this way. Secondly, once personal data is collected, it could be stored insecurely and become vulnerable to data breaches and theft. Data is a valuable commodity in the digital world, and as such, there are plenty of people who want to get their hands on it.
Why we’re removing 3rd party tracking cookies
To put it simply: we believe that your data is your own, and we respect your privacy. We understand that as technology progresses, we’re all becoming a bit more concerned with how our data is used and what we’re consenting to online. We hope our decision to remove tracking cookies will help ease concern around this for our site visitors and draw focus to what’s really important: the fight against climate change. We’re on a mission to protect and support the planet, and we don’t want anything to distract from that cause.
Here’s an overview of the changes:
No more third-party pixels that gather and share data with the GAFAM tech giants (i.e., Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft).
No more tracking cookies — our website usage data will be 100% anonymized, stored securely on our servers, and not shared with any 3rd party.
No more cookie consent requests on our website because we won’t be using any unnecessary cookies or sharing data with 3rd parties.
Of course, it’s worth mentioning that this will have implications for our analytics capabilities. We won’t have as much information about our site visitors, including how many times they’ve visited our website recently or where exactly they’re coming to us from. More specifically, our geographical accuracy will be limited to country level as we’ll be anonymizing the last two bytes of IP addresses. But on the plus side, this change will make our website lighter to process, which will decrease its carbon footprint by 22%. Ultimately, our vision is to inspire one billion people to remove CO₂ from the air, and we don’t believe we need cookies to do that.