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What are cookies?

Cookies are one or more little pieces of information from a website that are preserved in a web browser that can be retrieved by the website at a later time. Cookies are used to inform a server that a user has returned to a specific web page. When visitors return to a website, a cookie remembers their preferences and allows the site to offer customized settings and content.

What are cookies used for?

Marketers and advertisers use cookies for the below reasons to increase their customer base:

  • Personalized user experience: Advertisers use cookies to monitor user activity across websites to accurately show targeted ads based on their interests. In a nutshell, cookies are the reason why you look at a pair of shoes on a website only to be offered adverts for the same pair of shoes on other websites. They may appear to be following you and pleading with you to buy them, and they are.
  • Session management: Cookies save information related to a shopping cart, login information, and user preferences. This helps in promptly retrieving any information from a prior session, along with any specified preferences, when customers return to a site.
  • Gather demographics: Websites use the stored visitor information to measure how often people visit and how much time they spend there.

Are cookies safe?

Cookies, for the most part, are completely harmless. They are nothing more than text files that may be removed at any time. Unless you disable the cookie option in your browser, any personal information you provide to a Web site, including payment card information, will almost certainly be saved in a cookie. Cookies can only be a risk to privacy in this way. Only information that you willingly supply to a website will be stored in the cookie.

It’s useful to be aware that cookies:

  • Are not malicious to computer systems
  • Are not plug-ins or programs
  • Do not spread viruses
  • Can not access or read your hard drive

Types of cookies

  1.  Session cookie 

Session cookies, also known as transient cookies or per-session cookies, are small text files that save information for the duration of a user’s visit to a website. When the user exits the session, these cookies are removed.

  1. Persistent cookie

Persistent cookies also called tracking cookies are used to gather user information such as browsing patterns and preferences. They are saved on the user’s device for a set period until they expire or are removed. 

  1. First-party and third-party cookies

Cookies placed by websites that visitors access directly are referred to as first-party cookies. These cookies typically hold information about the user’s preferences or location that is essential or linked to the site.

Third-party cookies are cookies that appear on a website along with third-party content such as embedded videos, promotions, web banners, and scripts. Third-party cookies are commonly used by advertisers to track user behaviour.

  1. Supercookie 

Supercookies are similar to session cookies in nature. However, besides tracking user behaviour and browsing patterns, they also have the capability of re-creating user profiles even after conventional cookies have been removed. Supercookies are saved in various locations as compared to traditional cookies which makes it more difficult to discover and remove them. “Zombie cookies” and “ever cookies” are two terms used to describe supercookies.

When it is okay to accept cookies?

Accepting cookies might be beneficial in some situations. To understand why cookies might be valuable, you must first comprehend the information that a cookie may hold about you. Some of the information stored in cookies is below:

  • Website address
  • Unique user-id
  • Browsing history and patterns
  • Personal likes and interests
  • No. of visits to the website
  • Time spent on a website
  • Login credentials
  • Shopping cart history
  • Preferred settings

Companies may utilize cookies to their benefit, and in certain situations, to your advantage, with all of the above data. Accepting cookies might benefit you in three ways:

  1. Website access: The first benefit is straightforward-certain websites will deny access if you do not accept cookies.
  2. Enhanced user experience: Cookies help websites in providing an efficient, easy, and convenient buying experience to users. This is possible because cookies store all your browsing data and preferred settings resulting in a tailored website experience.
  3. Simple and easy log-in: Cookies when stored in your web browser, can also remember your log-in credentials. This is useful when signing in to your favourite websites regularly, especially if you forget your passwords.

Most important reasons to delete cookies from the browser

Below are reasons why clearing cookies from your browser can be a good idea:

Unencrypted websites: A website, if not encrypted means it does not protect your privacy in case of cookies storing any personal information. If already accepted, it would be a good idea to remove or delete such cookies. 

Third-party cookies: The issue with third-party cookies is that you have no control over what they do with your information. They – or someone with whom they share the data – might use your personal information to conduct crimes, for example. So, it is important to either decline or deletes such cookies if already accepted.

Reduced computer speeds: Cookies, despite their modest size, take up space on your computer. If you have a significant number of them preserved for a long period, they may slow down the speed of your computer and other devices.

Suspicious cookies: You should remove questionable cookies if your antivirus program identifies them as suspicious.

When working with private information: Cookies can save your personal information, to perform functions such as auto-filling forms in browsers. Your name, address, account login passwords, and other personal data might be exploited for unscrupulous reasons such as identity theft and other internet scams. As a practice, such cookies should never be accepted or should be immediately removed if stored on the computer.

Obsolete cookies: Once the website page is updated the cached cookies can create a conflict while reloading the page. Such outdated cookies should be removed for better performance.

It’s essential to stay vigilant and clear up your cookies frequently, regardless of how you handle cookies. To remove and control cookies, use the built-in browser options, or activate third-party cookie restrictions.