What are the internet cookies

Cookies. The ones we occasionally crave, that smell like our childhood home, tend to make us very happy. Internet cookies or digital cookies, however, operate a little differently. The biggest difference? We can’t consume them. Though, you can wholeheartedly leave that up to your browser.

Let’s be honest. All internet creatures, including yourself, have blindly clicked the “agree” button in a cookie pop-up screen – without reading the guidelines – once or twice. We are not judging. Our goal is to tell you what inedible cookies are, what they do and why a browser needs them. This way, next time you will actually know what you’re agreeing to. Quite handy, right?

What are the internet or digital cookies?

Instead of the freshly baked snacks, that will probably be the definition of your preference, internet cookies are data stored in web servers that host the websites you visit. They contain little pieces of information about your session on that website. If you’re an active internet user, you have probably come across them multiple times. Whenever you enter a new website that you have never visited before, a small pop-up window comes up and tells you about its cookies. You can accept it, personalise on how the cookies should be used or not accept it at all.

Data stored in a cookie, like a username and password, is created by the server upon your connection. This data is labeled with an ID unique to you and your computer. When the cookie is exchanged between your computer and the network server, the server reads the ID and knows what information to specifically serve to you.

What are the digital or internet cookies used for?

Websites use cookies to streamline your web experiences, like website access, improved user experience and easy log-in. Imagine that you’re shopping online and your cart is packed with items you desperately want. Now imagine that, just before the check-out, you accidentally close the page. Without cookies, you would have to login again, which means that you would have to start all over searching for goodies. Now your items are safe and sound thanks to cookies.

The example above highlights one of the ways cookies are intended to be used: session management. This means that cookies let users recall their log-in information, as well as their preferences.

Personalisation, entails customised and targeted advertising of things that you might enjoy, or tracking can be other purposes of cookies. Shopping sites use cookies to track items that users previously viewed, allowing the sites to suggest other goods they might like and keep items in shopping carts while they continue browsing.

While the intentions of cookies are mostly for your benefit, web developers get a lot out of this set-up as well. Cookies are stored on your device locally to free up storage space on a website’s servers. In return, websites can personalise while saving money on server maintenance and other things.

So, should you always accept cookies?

If you’re asking us if you have to accept cookies, the short answer is no. You are never obliged to, since rules (like the GDPR) were designed to give you control over your data and browsing history. The potential problem with refusing to accept cookies, however, is that you might not be allowed to use some websites and/or not receive the full user experience.

There are some scenarios where you might not want to accept or keep cookies:

  • Unencrypted websites. If a website isn’t encrypted, there is no security to protect your data.
  • Third-party cookies. Sharing your personal information with third parties, without giving you any control over it, could also leave you vulnerable.
  • Slow computer speed. Cookies occupy disk space, which can affect your computer’s speed.
  • Flagged cookies. Antivirus software may flag suspicious cookies, in which case you should not accept them.
  • Use of private information. If you’re sharing private data like your Social Security number (SSN) or banking information, you should decline the use of cookies to keep it safe. This is the type of personally identifiable information (also known as PII) that, if intercepted by the wrong parties, could help criminals commit online frauds like identity theft.

So, what do you think of your first meet and greet with cookies? Now you know why you do or don’t click the “agree” or “accept” button, when you are busy surfing the web. The total privacy is never given once we go online, but at least we can manage how we want the cookies to be used and we can still delete or change them.

Now, go and protect your data while enjoying some real cookies. After all, the only thing you should worry about is to not eat the whole package.

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