What are internet cookies?
Cookies are small text files containing unique data to identify your computer to the network. When you visit a website, it gives your browser a cookie to store in a cookie file that’s placed in your browser’s folder on your hard drive. The next time you visit the same website, the browser will give back the cookie to identify you. Then the website loads with a personalized experience.
Cookies do contain data, and that typically includes a unique identifier and a site name. A cookie could also include personally identifiable information such as your name, address, email, or phone number if you’ve provided that information to a website.
A simple example of cookies is when you open up a website and your username and password are auto-filled. Cookies provided your login information to the website. Another example is when you go online shopping on Amazon and find items that are still in your cart from your last purchasing spree.
What are cookies used for on websites?
The main purpose of web cookies is to make the internet experience easier for users. When websites can remember your past visits, they can load their website with your preferences. Here are a few things cookies can do when you visit a website:
- Set your chosen language preference
- Remember items in a shopping cart
- Remember if certain settings are turned on
- Authenticate your identity
- Prevent fraud
- Create highly targeted ads
- Track how you interact with ads
- Make personalized content recommendations
- Track items you view in an online store
- Auto-fill information in forms
Why do so many websites ask me to accept cookies?
Are computer cookies safe?
A normal cookie from a trusted website is generally safe to accept. Cookies don’t contain any identifiable information and are mostly used to ensure you have a smooth browsing experience by remembering your preferences and authenticating your identity.
Cookies can’t be used to download malicious software. However, cookie poisoning (or impersonating authentic cookies) could lead to falsifying an authentic user’s identity or using legitimate session IDs to perform malicious actions on a website.
In terms of unsafe cookies, zombie cookies are also difficult to remove. You’ll need to find and delete the cookie which continues to reinstall deleted zombie cookies. A system cleaner may be the best way to sanitize your device for malware and unwanted files.
Are third-party cookies safe?
Third-party cookies can’t discover who you are personally, but they will know a lot about your interests and what you do based on your recent web searches and browsing history.
This is valuable information to advertisers, and it’s often sold to them. User privacy advocates point out concerns about how this data is getting used and sold without the user’s knowledge of it even getting collected. The lack of digital privacy may not be ideal for many people.
Should you accept third-party cookies?
Third-party cookies have no direct impact on your browsing experience, and many browsers have already phased them out. Websites still load properly and remember your preferences without using third-party cookies.
If online privacy is a priority for you, then you may want to consider blocking third-party cookies on your preferred browser if it doesn’t do it already.
You may want to consider allowing third-party cookies if you prefer having ads relevant to you. Otherwise, you may get mismatched advertising which could be more annoying than seeing ads for products you might actually like.
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