You view a product online, then don’t buy it. The next time you surf the internet – the exact same product pops up! Woah – how did that happen? The answer is ‘cookies’!
These cookies (also called internet cookies, web cookies or browser cookies) are nothing but messages given by a web server to the web browser to store certain information.
In simplified language, it means this: you log on to Amazon, and view JBL speakers, but you don’t buy them. Amazon now knows that you are interested in these speakers and want to persuade you to buy them. So, it contacts Google Chrome, and asks Chrome to save these JBL speakers for you on your computer. So, the next time you open Chrome, it shows you ad popups containing guess what? Those exact same JBL speakers you were looking at on Amazon, and making you almost click the “buy now” button. Yes, it’s an ingenious trap.
However, they may not always be a bad thing. The information collected from cookies enables websites to offer convenient logins and authentication, personalized experience for you through preference setting and language setting, enhanced online shopping experience, ad management, and more.
Cookies do not store any of your personal information such as your email address or phone number.
However, because they allow third-party sites to track you across the web, there is a strong downside to cookies, particularly if you are concerned about what some refer to as “targeted advertising” and others as “online spying” or “invasion of privacy.” Another big threat is “cookie profiling” – it is the use of multiple tracking cookies to track your overall activities online over a period of time and then to compile these data to create a profile of you. The data may include your browsing activities, your demographic data, and some other statistical information. By doing cookie profiling, advertisers can target ads that are more relevant to your interests and buying preferences. Some people may not mind this, while others equate this to “cyber-stalking.”
Here are useful tips for managing cookies:
If you’re concerned with what information is collected about you and how your information is shared by the cookies, you have several options when it comes to cookie management.
- At the basic level, most browsers let you delete either individual cookies or to remove all of them. You can also choose to set up your browser so it only accepts first-party cookies, which will make it easier to log in to the sites you regularly visit, but will not leave you open to third-party advertising tracking cookies. Go to your browser settings and select the one appropriate for you.
- There are also cookie managers and browser plug-ins such as “Firecookie”, which enable you to view and manage cookies in your browser.
- Most browsers let you do the following: enable or disable cookies completely, so that they are always accepted or always blocked, view and selectively delete cookies using a cookie manager, or fully wipe all private data, including cookies.
- You may also wish to consider using a private browsing window in your preferred browser, such as the “Incognito Mode” in Google Chrome – Incognito Mode maintains a separate, temporary store of cookies which get destroyed when you exit incognito mode.
- In most computer-based web browsers, to open menus used to clear your cache, cookies, and history, press Ctrl-Shift-Delete (Windows) or Command-Shift-Delete (Mac).
It is a healthy practice to clear your web browser’s cache, cookies, and history periodically in order to prevent or resolve performance problems, however, after making note of all your usernames and passwords, as when you clear them, this information gets wiped out too.
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