When you go to a website you have never been to before, there is often a splash page that asks if you would like to accept cookies. It doesn’t mean you are getting a care package, it just means that you accept a formal interaction with the website you’re on. Let’s take a look at browser cookies
What Are Browser Cookies, Anyways?
In a way, a browser cookie is a little bit like a name tag that your computer wears when it communicates with a network. When your computer connects to the network in question (generally speaking, the Internet) a text file is generated. That file is what is known as a cookie, and it helps the browser give you the most customized browsing experience it can.
Basically, by creating these browser/HTTP/Internet cookies, your browser retains data that is tracked during your browsing sessions—tech-talk for the time you spend on a website. The first time you visit a website, the website’s host server shares information with your browser that is saved in the browser as a cookie. The next time you visit that website, your browser shares that data with the website so it can show you information based on your prior sessions.
This is how a website can keep you logged in when your browser is closed out and reopened, or save the items you’ve put in a shopping cart. Cookies are actually what makes the “back” button work in your browser.
However, Some Cookies are Different
It is important that we acknowledge that, so far, we’ve exclusively discussed first-party cookies—those created by websites you visit directly. These cookies are for the most part harmless, provided you’re not visiting unsafe websites.
There are also third-party cookies, which come from other websites than the one you’ve navigated to. Online ads often generate these to help track a user’s online behaviors.
Session cookies are those that help you retain information only during a specific browsing session, and marketing cookies track your activity to customize advertisements to your apparent interests. Have you ever noticed Amazon ads that display items similar to what you’ve recently been looking for? These marketing cookies are the reason that’s possible.
There are also cookies that give webmasters the information and metrics they need to improve their websites, called performance cookies and analytical cookies. These track things like the amount of time a user spends on different parts of the website and which pages are the most popular amongst visitors.
Of Course, Cookies Have a Bad Name for a Reason
It isn’t a secret that there are malicious cookies out there, those that collect more data than you’d like to share and potentially leave it on the table for threats. This is why you should be sparing in the number of cookies you enable on your company devices, and it doesn’t hurt to clear out your cookies every so often.
Removing Cookies in Different Browsers
In Google Chrome:
- Click into the three-dot menu
- Click into Settings
- Click into Privacy and security
- Click Clear browsing data
- Select Advanced
- Determine the time period to delete cookies from, and click Clear data
In Mozilla Firefox
- Click into Options
- Click into Privacy & Security
- Click into Cookies and Site Data
- Select Clear Data
In Microsoft Edge:
- Click into Settings
- Click into Privacy and services
- Find Clear browsing data, and Choose what to clear
- Select your time range and click Clear now
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