Cookies: what they are and how they work

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COOKIES: We’ve all been there: you open a website and a pop-up message comes asking you to accept a cookie. In this privacy-conscious day, one might wonder what these cookies that appear when I access a website are for and what risk they entail if I accept them.

Cookies, also known as website cookies or HTTP cookies, are a little text file that a user’s computer browser or application subdirectory stores. Except for the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) of the website visited, the duration of the cookie’s ability and effects, and a randomly generated number that is used to uniquely identify users, cookies typically do not include much information.

Cookies are divided into three categories:

1 Session cookies: During your visit to a website, these cookies are set and kept in a subdirectory of your browser. When you close your browser, they expire or are erased.

2 Persistent/permanent cookies: These cookies are produced and kept in a subfolder of your browser and remain there for the lifetime of the cookie’s file, which is set within the cookie’s file (maximum duration allowed by law is 6 months). They remain active even after the browser is closed and are reactivated when you visit the website that set the cookie.

3 Third-party cookies: A cookie’s properties usually match to the website domain it’s on. Third-party cookies, on the other hand, are set by third-party websites. This gives companies the ability to trace their online actions across different websites.

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Cookies are usually used to track individual user activity within a website so that a customized experience can be provided. Cookies are used by websites such as Amazon.com to track your preferences and recommend products that match your preferences. For example, if you are looking for an engagement ring, the website may propose wedding dresses or other wedding accessories.

Cookies can also be used to remember registered login data, allowing website owners to measure exactly how many unique visits they receive on their sites despite multiple entries by one person.

Because third-party cookies can be used to track users’ online activities across numerous websites, privacy experts are concerned about their use. Third-party cookies can be dealt with in a number of ways for privacy-conscious users.

1 User can alter their browser’s cookie and tracking settings.

2 Adblockers and other similar browser extensions can be installed by users.

3 Browsers with built-in ad blockers, such as Brave, can be used.

4 users can use their existing browsers to go into private or incognito mode.

But, in the end, cookies give consumers a more convenient surfing experience while also providing website owners with much-needed analytical capability.

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