What are Cookies, Exactly?
Cookies are small files containing text that are downloaded to your computer when you visit a website. Every time you visit the site again, the browser sends the cookie back to the site owner. This enables sites to remember details about how you use them, such as your preferred language or location, what you’ve already put in your shopping basket and what you have in your address book. This article explains what are cookies, different types of internet cookies, what are cookies used for, and why we should not accept cookies.
Internet cookies don’t just store simple details like the number of times you’ve visited a site, but can also be used to recognize who you are and provide enhanced, more personal features. For example, cookies can remember your preferences for how a site looks and functions so that every time you visit, those preferences are automatically restored. Cookies can also help make sure that adverts or search results online are relevant to you and your interests.
What are Cookies Used For?
Cookies are used for many purposes, both good and bad:
- A cookie can be used to recognize a registered user and avoid the need for them to provide a username and password every time they visit. For example, a user might log in to their account on a website using a username and password, but if cookies are enabled, the site will remember who that person is, so they only have to log in once.
- A cookie could be set by a website or app to remember a person’s language or location preferences over time, so that the next time they visit, the website automatically displays content in their preferred language.
- Internet Cookies can also be used to remember an earlier action that was performed by a registered user, such as filling out a web form or signing up for an account on a website. This feature is sometimes called an “auto-submit” cookie.
- Some cookies also collect information about the browsing habits of users over time which could be exploited by advertisers who want more targeted advertising.
Types of Internet Cookies
Following are the types of Five Types of Internet Cookies.
First Party Cookies
Some cookies are sent to your computer by websites that you visit. These are called “first party cookies” and they can be read-only by the website that created them.
Third Party Cookies
Third-Party Cookies are sent to your computer by advertising networks. These are called “third-party cookies” and they can be read by both the website that created them and the advertising network.
Session cookies are used to store a temporary ID number in a user’s web browser. The ID number is associated with a server-side session or a “session” in the application. It is used for authentication and also to track the user’s activity.
Session cookies are a trick for websites to remember who you are without having to store information about you on your computer, where it might be vulnerable to hackers. The way they work is that the website gives you a random string of characters when you hit the site for the first time, and then every time you come back to the site, it checks to see if your browser still has the cookie. If it does, you know that it’s been less than 24 hours since your last visit.
A flash cookie, or pixie cookie, is a temporary kind of cookie that stays on your computer even when you aren’t visiting the site that created it. It cannot do anything while it is not being used by any website, but when it is used it can do things like send information about your surfing habits to another website without your realizing it.
Zombie Cookies work by exploiting the gap between what people expect when they delete something and what online services actually do. People expect that when they delete something, it’s really gone, and will not come back if given another chance. Some sites make this explicit: Twitter, for instance, says “Once you delete a Tweet it’s really gone.” But other sites make no such claim and seem to leave the impression that when you hit the Delete button, you’re done.
Sketchy sites are the ones that slipped through the cracks of Google, you know the ones that are awkwardly made up of other people’s content, but it makes you wonder why you even bother trying to create original content yourself because it does nothing for your site or business. The thing with these sites is that they thrive on SEO whereas people see their pages ranking well in the SERPs and make further attempts at building low-quality/copywritten content.
Third-party cookies are used for tracking and data aggregation; some of those uses will be hard to predict. The power they concentrate in the hands of advertisers is already dangerous, but that is nothing compared to the power they could concentrate in the hands of governments.
As a user, you encounter “Accept Cookies” in three situations:
- First, when you arrive at the site. This is the most important choice because if you don’t make it, no other choices will be offered. So you should only accept cookies on a site when (a) the site is asking for your permission; and (b) if it’s not asking, then (c) you know exactly what they’re asking permission to do.
- Second, when you visit a new page. Some sites set cookies that are only used when you visit certain pages — like the page where your account details are stored. These cookies shouldn’t be accepted any more than “regular” cookies should be accepted. They’re just a way of tracking your browsing history across multiple pages, without your being aware of it.
- Third, when you visit a third-party site from a given page. Some sites set cookies that are only used by certain other sites — usually advertising or tracking sites — and which can record whatever data the first site’s owners want to share with those third parties.
Why we should not accept cookies?
Every time you use a web application, there are dozens of tiny files being downloaded to your computer. These are cookies, and they are the most privacy-invading part of web applications. Cookies are often used for tracking, or worse, for injecting ads into your browser. Accept all cookies meaning that you are compromising your privacy and allowing the internet to track you.
Cookies are dangerous because they make it easier for websites to track you. Tracking is when a site records details about you in order to sell them to other companies. For example, if I notice that every time someone visits my web page from Washington DC, they also visit the website of my favorite local restaurant, I might want to send them advertisements for that restaurant.
Another example, if I went to the New York Times site and looked at articles about international trade, I might see an ad from Nike for running shoes; but if I looked at articles about domestic politics I might see an ad for a different kind of shoe. Cookies help make the ads I see more relevant to what I’ve been looking at.
The privacy issue comes in because these cookies reside on your computer. If you have a shared computer–for example, one at work or in a lab or library–it’s possible that other people will see the cookies left behind by sites you have visited. So even though you don’t see all those ads, someone else might.
Disadvantages of Accepting Cookies
- They slow down your computer. Every time your browser accesses a website, it sends all the cookies it has stored for that site. The more cookies you have, the longer this takes.
- They send information to websites without your permission. This can be personal information, like if you were to log into Facebook and visit a page with an advert from a third party; or it can be sensitive information about what other websites you’ve been visiting (e.g., if you visit a page with an advert from a third party and then go back to Facebook).
- There is no easy way to find out which cookies do what – especially as most of them don’t have any identifying information – and no easy way to delete them.”
How to disable cookies in Google Chrome?
Following are the simple steps to disable cookies in your Google Chrome browser:
- Open Google Chrome.
- Click on the 3 dots in the top right corner
- Click “settings”
- Select “Show advanced settings”
- Find “Privacy” in the list, and click on Content Settings
- Find “All cookies and site data” in the content Setting page, and click on “Block All”