Explaining “Cookies” (the non-caloric ones that reside on your computer!)

You can’t talk about all those nasty ‘things’ that can ‘attack’ your computer while you’re browsing the Internet, like viruses or spyware, without talking about ‘Cookies’. But what are they and are they really bad for my computer?

Well, first let’s define the term and then we’ll explain the good and bad of it.


A small data file (text and numbers) (piece of information) created by a web server (large computer that hosts websites) that is temporarily stored on your computer just for that session (time spent on a website) or permanently on the hard drive (persistent cookie). Cookies allow the website you visit and revisit to identify users and track their preferences. Amazon and Barnes and Noble online are very creative in their use of cookies that are generated when you visit.

Here’s an example from my computer visiting the Disney.com website:

CP null*disneyworld.disney.go.com/1088 1761935360 30785590 403215680 29726670*

Note that the only thing you can recognize in that string of text and numbers is the name of the website. The rest of the information is simply a set of numbers that only a computer can understand.

Why are cookies important to you? Well, you wouldn’t be able to browse the web as you’re used to today if you had restricted cookies on your computer.

The Good “Cookies” (non-caloric type)

Cookies are commonly used to “maintain state” (the current or last known state) of the session (time spent on a site) while a user navigates the site. For example, if you filled out a form and decided to leave it for a moment to view another page, when you return to that form, the information you already filled out would still be there. Without cookies, the site would not know who you are.

The 2 websites I mentioned, Amazon and Barnes and Noble, both use a combination of cookies and an online database to recognize you when you return to the site, as well as “remember” your previous choices and from those choices recommend possible books. . or music options for you on your current visit.

Imagine, if you will, walking into a local Barnes and Noble store where an employee immediately recognizes you, approaches you while calling your name, and leads you to your very own table of books and music. You’ll see that they’ve put all your favorite types of books and musicians on the table, both new and old, all laid out for your quick viewing pleasure!

And, on the table next to you, there is a sign that says “Other people who bought these items also bought these items” so you can find interesting items that you may never have seen but might find interesting. Wouldn’t that make shopping a great experience?

Well, that’s exactly what it’s like to shop online with a fancy shopping website like Barnes and Noble and Amazon! And it’s only because cookies remember who you are that allows this type of service to occur.

The bad side of cookies

Actually, as you just saw, the cookies on your computer are not bad; it’s just that the information they contain can be quite tempting to unscrupulous people. A large amount of personal data may reside in cookie files on your computer, such as identification and password information. As a result, this store of private information is sometimes subject to attack, as is the case with some types of spyware.

The default setting (Default refers to a value automatically assigned to a computer program or device), your web browser settings generally allow “first party” cookies that do not contain any personal information, but not “third party” cookies.

Own cookies are those created by the website you are visiting. Third party cookies are created by a website other than the one you are currently visiting; for example, by a third-party advertiser on that site (pop-up window or banner). The purpose of such cookies is usually to track your browsing habits, so third-party cookies are considered an invasion of privacy and riskier than first-party cookies. In some cases, cookies are used to consolidate and track user behavior across different sites, giving sellers private information about you without your knowledge. These are so-called tracking cookies.

Aha, now we’re getting somewhere!

Because, a tracking cookie is a somewhat new term for a cookie that has been designed by the aforementioned ‘unscrupulous’ people who do business on the Web. It’s part of the unfortunate phenomenon known as Spyware! But that’s a topic for another whole article!


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