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What Are Cookies?

BitForex Editor
Nov 16, 2020

When you mention the word "cookies," peoples mind tends to drift to a yummy looking chocolate chip treat. However, in this scenario, especially in reference to computers, cookies are not an edible item; they are not even physical objects meaning you can't see or even eat them. They might not be your typical treat, but they perform various functions and make browsing the internet more convenient; plus, they can also be very difficult if you don't know how to clear or delete them, but before going further, it is necessary to understand what a cookie or cookies are.

A cookie or cookies refers to small text files that have ID tags and are stored on your computer program data subfolders or browser directory. Cookies are created the moment you use your browser to visit or access a website that makes use of cookies to track movements within the site, remember registered login, preferences, theme selection, help you resume where you left of as well as other customization functions. The website stores a matching file which usually has the same ID tag similar to the one set in your browser by them, and in this file, they can monitor, track as well as register information of your movements or activities within the site including information you might have given voluntarily on the site like an email address.

In a more simplified term, cookies are like memory tools that remember your actions as well as take note of your online behavior. This might sound like a negative thing to you but cookies are responsible for the way the World Wide Web functions. Cookies are often essential for websites that have customizable themes, require logins, large databases, as well as other advanced features. Cookies don't usually contain excess information apart from a random number, the duration of the cookie's effects and abilities, as well as the URL of the website that created the cookie. A cookie cannot be used to reveal personal identifying information or your identity.

Types Of Cookies

Cookies are of three types: Persistent (First-party cookies), Third-party, and Session Cookies. These text files, which are virtually invisible, and also vary in different ways. Each with its function as these cookies serves the purpose of collecting, tracking, and storing any data or information that companies request.

Persistent Cookies (First-Party Cookies)

Persistent cookies, which are also referred to as first-party cookies, function by tracking your online preferences. Anytime you access a site for the first time, it usually has its original setting; however, if you change the setting of the site based on your preference, it will be noted by persistent cookies and those preferences will be put in place during your next visit to the site. Through this means, that is how computers remember and save internal nook marks, language selections, login information, menu preferences, amongst others.

Terms like persistent, stored, or permanent cookies are often used interchangeably as these cookies are saved in your hard disk for a long time. The timeline of the cookies also tends to vary based on the expiration date; however, the cookie will be deleted as well as every customized detail once the date reaches. However, some websites choose to employ a long-life span in other to allow users to utilize more of their personal preferences.

Session Cookies

Session cookies are more like temporary cookies that memorize your activities online. Websites have no sense of memory, and if there are no cookies, then your browsing history will always be empty or blank, and, in this case, the website would always treat you as a new visitor with every click you make.

An example of how session cookies are beneficial is in the case of online shopping. You can check out anytime when shopping online. This is because your movements are being tracked by session cookies. Without these cookies, your cart would be empty whenever you go to checkout. Session cookies aid you in maneuvering through the internet by keeping track of your actions, and the moment you close out of a web page, then they expire.

Third-Party Cookies

Third-party cookies are also known as tracking cookies, which collect data or information based on your online behavior. Anytime you access or visit a website, third-party cookies collect different types of information or data, which are sold or sent to advertisers by the website that created the cookie. Monitoring or tracking your search trends, age, interests, and location, third-party cookies collect data in other for markets to you with custom advertisements. These are usually ads that are visible on websites you access and show contents or things that are relevant or similar to your interests.

Third-party cookies are very beneficial for marketers as they track your habits and, in turn, provide targeted ads. However, to the person visiting the website, those ads might seem intrusive, which is why there is always the option of blocking them.

The Dark Side Of Cookies

There might be a slight disadvantage to cookies that people usually tend to overlook. It is essential to know that cookies aren't as harmful as the cookies' data don't change; plus, they cannot infect computers with viruses or other malware. However, some cookies can be hijacked by cyberattacks, which will, in turn, make it easy to access your browsing sessions. The disadvantage here is the ability to track a person's browsing histories. To further explain, let's focus on the cookies to take note of.

Third-party cookies tend to be more difficult as they are created by websites that are not the same as the web pages a user is currently accessing, and this is because they are linked to ads on that page. Accessing a website with 15 ads may generate 15 cookies irrespective of whether users click on those ads. Analytics companies or advertisers make use of third-party cookies to monitor the browsing history of an individual across the web and on any sites that has their ads. For example, in this case, advertisers tell that a person first searched for sporting wear at a particular outdoor store before proceeding to check a specific sporting wears site and then a sporting goods site.

Zombie cookies are also a part of third-party cookies and are permanently installed even when users choose not to install cookies. Even after they have been deleted, they also tend to reappear, which makes it difficult to get rid of. Zombie cookies can also be used to monitor the browsing histories of specific individuals, and some sites also use zombie cookies to ban some users.

Cookies provide some specific benefits, which is why banning all browser histories is not a good idea as it will make it difficult to navigate through some websites. However, you can protect your privacy by using a setting that limits or controls tracking cookies and third-party cookies.

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