As a person who helps a lot of individuals with their personal computer problems I seem to run into a familiar line of thinking on a regular basis, and that is many people seem to think web cookies (also known as browser cookies or an HTTP cookie) are a bad thing. Some I’ve talked with even seem to think that having a cookie is akin to having a virus, and that web cookies are a very bad thing.
First off, what exactly is a web cookie? Simply put, web cookies are nothing more than a piece of text that your web browser (firefox, internet explorer etc.) stores. It is not an executable file and doesn’t have any ability to run scripts or other potentially malicious software on your computer, all it ever stores is information in text format.
So to break it down for you real simple, here in three parts is the good, the bad and the ugly of web cookies.
Web cookies are utilized by many web sites for things such as authentication, storing your site preferences (Such as when you choose MSN Canada versus MSN USA, you’ll notice you never get asked again, and that is because that choice is stored in a cookie.), the contents of your online shopping cart, and there are additional legitimate uses as well. The information is stored until you delete your cookies, or until the cookie is set to expire which is often decided by the website you are visiting. If a cookie expires it is deleted from your computer. Popular cookie myths: Cookies are not viruses, and they have no ability to replicate themselves. Cookies also have no ability to generate pop-up advertising, or to send spam.
The notorious tracking cookie is what most people are thinking about when they think negatively about cookies. The object of a tracking cookie is as its name suggests to track your internet browsing habits. Tracking you across multiple sites is valuable information to advertisers who can determine based on your habits what types of advertising should be shown to you. The primary concern with tracking cookies is that they are violating your privacy rights. Most browsers contain options for looking at, deleting, and rejecting cookies. Unfortunately rejecting cookies all together will cause some sites to become unavailable to you. If privacy is a major concern to you, than you should use an effective anti-malware tool such as malwarebytes which will identify and remove tracking cookies.
Eating a lot of cookies will cause you to gain weight.
There is a lot more complex information that could be given on cookies, but the basics are here. If you’d like to learn more than I suggest you spend a little time researching cookies on the web. A site worth looking at is cookiecentral.com. So now you can help your family and friends better understand cookies, and maybe debunk some of their cookie myths. By the way my favorite cookies are peanut butter.