We see the term “cookies” all the time when we’re browsing the internet. But, what does it all mean? Are they safe? What do they do?

What is a Cookie?

A cookie is a small text file generated by a website that is stored in your web browser. This allows for easier access to particular information, such as your login information or your preference and setting on a website or search engine. As a result, these cookies personalize your experience using the information collected.

Types of Cookies

There are two different types of browser cookies: session and persistent. A session cookie holds your information temporarily for one session. After you are done with the session and close your browser, these cookies are deleted. In most cases, these are the cookies used when shopping online to store items in your cart.

On the other hand, persistent cookies store your information on a hard disc. Unlike a session cookie, data is stored for an extended period of time. The period of time is determined by the expiration date it was created with, which varies anywhere from a few days to multiple years. Once the expiration date is reached, the cookie is automatically deleted. When you revisit a website that has your information stored, your experience will be personalized based off the information collected through these cookies. For instance, websites often have a ‘remember me’ box that can be checked off when logging into a website. This generates a login cookie. As a result, you are able to continue onto your account
on a website without having to type in your username and password.

Are Cookies Safe?

Unlike malware, cookies are harmless. They are simply data stored by a website in your browser. Many times, cookies are essential to properly use a website. For instance, it would be nearly impossible to use e-commerce sites for online shopping without cookies because the website could not remember all of the items you add to your cart.

On top of that, the information stored in a cookie is only available for that specific website. Therefore, data stored in a cookie on one website will not be accessible to any other website.

However, some cookies might be a privacy risk and are not used with the intent of helping users. This is often the case
with advertising cookies. Some websites use a particular brand of advertising, like Google AdWords. Advertising cookies on these websites stores data on different things you demonstrate an interest in. These cookies will then suggest different searches for you, or related ads will appear that urge you to make a purchase.

In addition, there are some cookies that can be used to track where you go on a website. These are third party cookies,
which come from the advertisers on that website and are not associated with the domain that you are visiting. Typically, these cookies do not collect any personalized information.

Clearing and Controlling Cookies

While cookies are often essential for a website, you are able to clear and control them if you want to. Some web browsers even allow you to prevent cookies from being created. Although this will lead to a higher level of privacy, it is not
recommended since websites will not function properly.  By deleting cookies on your browser, all of the login information accumulated through different websites will no longer be saved.

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