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Functional Cookies: What Are They & Can They Track You?

Osman Husain 1/31/24 3:19 PM

Table of Contents

What Are Functional Cookies?

Functional cookies (also called functionality cookies) are a type of cookie that helps website owners deliver specific features and experiences to their users.

For example, websites may use functional cookies to store their members’ login credentials as they navigate the website, allowing them to browse without logging in on every new page. Functional cookies can be first-party, third-party, persistent, or session-based, and they are generally considered among the “strictly necessary” cookies exempt from consent collection mandates.


What Can Functional Cookies Do?

Functional cookies help site owners provide a higher level of content personalization and usability than those without them. Indeed, functional cookies allow many functions that modern website users take for granted—like not needing to provide our language preference for every new page we visit.

Functional cookies improve the user in experience in a variety of ways:

  • Authentication cookies that preserve a user’s login credentials across pages;
  • Language cookies that display content in a user’s preferred language;
  • Interface cookies that log preferences for display size, themes, or layout;
  • Form data cookies that store details entered into online forms and preserve information even when a connection is lost.


Do Functional Cookies Track Information?

No, functional cookies don’t collect personal information on users and aren’t used to track activity across websites. Functional cookies are completely anonymous, though some third-party cookies can be considered functional when related to third-party services. In these cases, the third-party vendor may collect cookie information by its usage policies. 


Staying Compliant with Functional Cookies

Functional cookies are often categorized as strictly necessary, as they involve standard website functionality and usability. The UK’s Information Commissioner's Office, the top regulatory authority enforcing General Data Protection Regulation laws, has stated that functional cookies are likely exempt from cookie consent rules, provided they relate to specific services requested by users. However, criteria must be met for these exemptions to apply.

To stay compliant, companies must know which functional cookies in use may be relying on third-party services or plugins to provide functionality. Services like maps or social media integration may store different information on user behavior or preferences; website owners will need to thoroughly review the policies of all third-parties to ensure no cookies are left out of the inventory.

And as a general rule, companies should always strive to maintain transparency around their cookie policies, even when consent is not required. It’s good practice to keep users informed of all cookies in use through cookie banner tools that allow for fast updates in the face of changing regulations.  


Osman Husain

Osman is the content lead at Enzuzo. He has a background in data privacy management via a two-year role at ExpressVPN and extensive freelance work with cybersecurity and blockchain companies. Osman also holds an MBA from the Toronto Metropolitan University.