Tech Terminology: Cookies

Tech Terminology: Cookies

Everyone loves cookies, but browser cookies take on a whole other definition in the computing environment. Do you know what browser cookies do, as well as what their purpose is? Today’s tech term is dedicated to cookies--they might not be delicious, but they do serve an important role within your organization.

What Are Cookies?
Cookies are bits of information from websites that are stored on your computer in a text format. What this accomplishes is that it makes it much easier to access information repeatedly. The information is stored in name-value pairs that check if you’ve accessed the website before. If you have, it customizes your experience to reflect any information that has been collected in regard to that website. The cookies are then removed when the browser window closes, or they linger for as long as they are set to.

In their most basic sense, cookies give websites the ability to remember that you logged in, while also retaining specific settings that are customized based on your input. This keeps them from reverting to the default settings upon leaving the browser. A perfect example of how these work is looking at Amazon and other e-commerce sites. You might wonder how they know what products to recommend to you. The answer is cookies--they keep track of what items you’ve browsed, giving you the ability to potentially purchase them at a later date.

Is This Dangerous?
Cookies might seem like a threat to your privacy at first glance, but this isn’t necessarily true. The data stored by cookies can only be viewed by websites that deliver them. This means that information from one website can’t be seen by another, eliminating the possibility that malicious websites could use cookies to access information stored by other websites.

On the other hand, cookies aren’t always there to help. In the above example, Amazon might be suggesting searches for you, but other websites can store cookies in the form of ads. Advertisement cookies contain information about what you might be interested in, meaning that any website that uses that particular type of ad will be able to see information about what you’re interested in. A good example of this is Google AdWords, which is used all over the Internet.

Clearing Cookies
To clear cookies collected by the browser, you can use the Clear Private Data tool. This also deletes any saved login credentials that you have stored. To make this less irritating for you, you can whitelist specific websites to preserve their cookies.

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