When you surf the Internet, websites you visit collect and record usage information about your computer such as your IP address, browser type, operating system you are using, web pages last visited, etc. This information automatically comes from your browser to identify you and track your browsing habits and activities.
As you surf the web, most web sites send cookies to your computer to track your Internet usage. Most cookies are "good" cookies, used for legitimate purposes, such as storing preferences, account information and remembering the choices you have made on the site. But some cookies are "bad". For example, cookies from one site might track your visits to different web sites to know your browsing habits and purchase history, etc.
This page provides general information about computer cookies:
What are Cookies?
A computer cookie is a piece of data which often includes an unique identifier. This is sent to your browser from web sites you visit and is stored as a file on your computer. This identifies you as a unique user and tracks your web usage. Computer cookies can do everything from:
- Monitoring your visits throughout web sites
- Tracking how many times you've visited the site.
- Track how long you've been on the site
- Keep track of your log-in information at a particular page.
- emember important information about your computer.
How long are Cookies are stored on your Computer?
It depends on the type of cookies. There are two different types of computer cookies -
- Session cookies ("non-persistent cookie") are cookies that only exist as long as your session on the web site lasts, and expires as soon as you leave the website. The primary purpose of session cookies is to help with navigation, such as, indicating whether or not you have already visited a particular page and retain information about your preferences while there. So session cookies are used to facilitate your activities within that site.
- The second type of cookies is "persistent cookies". Persistent cookies are stored on your computer in order to recognize users and retain his/her personal preferences when he/she returns to the website. For Example - Because of persistent cookies, a website remembers your name and password on protected login pages. Hence your email address appears by default when you open your Yahoo or Hotmail email account, or your personalized home page appears when you visit your favorite online merchant. Persistent cookies exist beyond the life of your Internet session and may live for months or years. In most browsers, you can adjust the length of time that persistent cookies are stored.
What are Cookies used for?
The primary purposes of cookies is to recognize the user and retain his/her personal preferences when he/she returns to a website. If you personalize Web pages, or register for products or services, a cookie helps the Web page server to recall your specific information. This may be useful to simplify the process of recording your personal information, such as billing addresses, shipping addresses, and so on. Cookies allow websites to store user preferences and retrieval of this information for viewing customization of movie listings, weather and other local information.
Cookies can do everything from monitoring your visit throughout web sites, tracking how many times you've visited the site, how long you've been on the site, your log-in information at a particular page to remembering important information about your computer. Cookies allow websites to track their visitors so that they can know how many visitors have viewed the site and how many repeat visitors they have received.
Session cookies are stored only until you close your browser. This type of cookie is mainly used to remember choices that you make as you navigate through a web site.
Persistent cookies allow web sites to recognize you when you return to these sites. Persistent cookies are used by websites to store your preferences, maintain state information as you navigate different pages on a website or return to the website later For identifying purposes, demographic statistics and online shopping ecommerce sites may use them to remember what you have in your shopping basket.
CanCookies be used Maliciously?
In one of their malevolent forms, cookies from one web site might track your visits to a different web site. For example, most of the ads that you see on web sites do not come from the site that you are viewing, but from sites that provide ads to many sites. When the advertising site displays the ad, it can send cookies on your computer. This lets the advertising company track your web usage over a range of sites and profile your browsing habits.
Cookies and Privacy?
Every time you visit a website, it will look for its cookie on your hard drive. It uses the information stored within the cookie to know your name, your shopping preferences, etc.
Most browser offer advanced cookie management options that allows you to accept or reject cookies depending on whether they are first-part or third-party cookies and/or pertaining to the domain of the issuer. So you have the ability to enable or disable cookies, or have your browser prompt you before accepting cookies. But be careful as disabling cookies may prevent some websites from working correctly. There is one very simple step to secure your privacy and to ensure sites are not collecting personal information about you without your knowledge. That is to choose, only allow cookies for the web site you are visiting; block or limit cookies from a third-party.
Despite all this, cookies are useful, they store information such as your name and password on protected login pages, preferences, account information and choices you have made on the site. Although you may be deleting your browser history, cookies are like a map and will still show your surfing preferences, habits, passwords, etc. So to protect your privacy, you should constantly delete cookies.
Unfortunately disabling or deleting cookies does not make you anonymous or prevent web sites from tracking your browsing habits. Websites can still collect and record usage information about your computer such as your IP address, browser type, operating system, web pages last visited, etc. This information automatically comes from your browser to identify you and track your browsing habits and activities.
What Cookies can not do
Can cookies "read" information from a hard drive?
No. Cookies are just harmless files. Cookies cannot look into information stored on your hard-drive. It is technically impossible for cookies to read personal information. Cookies can only store data that is provided by the server or generated by an explicit user action.
Can cookies be used to run programs and deliver viruses on your PC?
No. Cookies cannot be used to run programs or to deliver viruses to your computer.
Should I be deleting my Cookies?
Yes. Most definitely. When you clean out your cache folders make sure you select 'Delete Cookies' also. Detailed Instructions for cleaning out your cache folders are listed under Cache on the Menu.