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What Are Internet Cookies

Internet Cookies are a mystery to many people.  I’ll unravel that mystery for you and explain how cookies work  to improve your internet browsing experience.

What is a Cookie

First thing is cookies are not some malicious program used to get your information. In fact they are not programs at all. A cookie in its simplest form is nothing more than a text file stored on your computer hard drive.  These text files are used by websites to recognize your computer every time you visit. They can store a lot of things from log in information and password to what you viewed on the site.

How Cookies Work

When you visit a website that uses cookies, the first thing the site does is check to see if you have a valid cookie from the site. If you do it retrieves the information and if applicable the server will apply any customization you have saved for the site. An example would be for Amazon.com. When you go to check out, the saved cookies are what will auto populate your shipping information and other fields for you. If you are visiting Amazon.com for the first time the site will recognize that this is your first visit and save a cookie to your hard drive. Different sites will use cookies in different ways.

Tracking Cookies

A tracking cookie (normally used by third-party advertising sites) will log a little bit of information about what you have viewed and where you saw the content. An example of this would be if you visited a site that has third-party advertisements, the site will log a cookie but the third-party advertisement will log a tracking cookie as well. The Tracking cookie saves what advertisement you saw and what site you viewed it from. Later, you are web surfing and come across another third-party advertisement from the same advertising site. The tracking cookies that was saved earlier from the advertising site will save this new information on the same cookie. Logging what advertisement you saw and again where you viewed it. Over time this will create a log of your online destinations, which the advertiser will use to personalize ads and create pop-up ads tailored to your browsing patterns.  The privacy issue of what information is collected is where the controversy of tracking cookies comes from.

Clear Cookies

There is a way in all browsers to clear your cookies. For a how to guide on clearing cookies visit Web Privacy.

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