Cookies: What They Are and How to Use Them

Cookies have always been popular, whether it’s the chocolate chip variety or snickerdoodle. But what is a computer cookie?

Computer cookies, also known as HTTP cookies, are small pieces of unchanged information websites stored on your computer. This arbitrary information is gathered from previously entered form fields, such as names, addresses, passwords and credit card numbers, and is saved for future use. In order to prevent websites from stealing or using your data maliciously, websites only have access to their own cookies.

Types of Cookies:

  • Session Cookies : Cookies used only when a person is active on a website and disappears after you leave.
  • Tracking Cookies : Cookies that are used to record multiple visits to the same site.
  • Authentication Cookies : Cookies that track a user’s login information.

Benefits of Cookies:

  • Stores your login information.
  • Stores your website preferences and keeps track of user visits and activities. Without cookies, shopping carts would reset to zero instead of keeping track of your items, making online shopping next to impossible.
  • Allows websites to provide personalized content. For example, online retailers are able to use cookies to recommend similar products to you.

Cookie Malpractice:

  • Advertising and tracking networks use cookies to track user activity across the Internet.
  • Cookies are often sold for their aggregate browsing data and are used to target ads to users.
  • Cookies are commonly used to collect long-term records of user browsing history. As this is a potential privacy concern, European law now requires all websites to get ‘informed consent’ from users before storing unnecessary cookies on their devices.

Besides blocking and deleting
Unless you’re wanting to clear it, you won’t get much use from looking at your cookie data You can manage your browser’s cookies from your browser’s ‘settings’. Most browsers have a ‘Clear Private Data’ tool that deletes cookies. If you delete them, make sure you know your passwords because your cookies will no longer do the work for you. Keep in mind that if you disable cookies, your login information will no longer be saved.