What are Internet Cookies?

A cookie is a name given to describe a small file that is stored in your computer by the web browser after it is given by a website. The name ‘cookie’ comes from a UNIX object known as a ‘Magic Cookie’. The website can read this cookie to retrieve the data stored in it later. If you enter data on a website, such as your name, what language you would like to view the website in, or your location, this information is packaged into a cookie and saved in your browser. On subsequent visits to the same website, it will read the cookie and retrieve this information so you would not have to enter it again. The information collected by websites allow them to offer personalised experiences and save login states, so users won’t have to re-enter the same information every time. Some users are rightfully wary of cookies as they can be used to track users across websites which can be used in profiling and targeted advertisements. You can learn more about internet advertisements at PPC management Brisbane. Many jurisdictions, such as the EU legally require websites to inform the user what information is being stored in their cookies and allow them to opt out if necessary.

What can they do?

The fundamental use of a cookie is to store data persistently in a user’s device so that when they interact with a website, the website remembers these prior interactions. This is very helpful in many case – for instance, in most online shopping website allow us to store items in a cart and checkout once we’re done shopping. The information of which products are in the cart is stored in a cookie. Without them, the cart would reset every time we move from one page to another.

There are different types of cookies, each serving different purposes. Session cookies are created while a user is browsing a website and destroyed immediately once the user leaves. Persistent cookies remain in storage even after the user leaves but may have an expiration date. Authentication cookies remember whether a user is logged in to a website or not and logs them in automatically on subsequent visits. The above online shopping example would use a session cookie or persistent cookie to track your shopping cart.

Browsers adhere to the ‘Same Origin’ Principle which means that only the websites that create the cookie will be allowed to read it. This safeguards potentially sensitive data stored by a website from being read by a third party. However, some advertisement present in a website can store their own cookies in the browser which can be accessed by the same advertisement provider on another website, which allows them to keep track of a users’ browsing habits and history. This has garnered criticism and has been the reason for many privacy laws safeguarding user data. This information can be used for targeted advertising and user profiling which many social networks and advertisement service providers engage in.


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