What are Cookies?

Updated: Mar 2

Cookie on Laptop Screen

What are cookies?

No, not chocolate chip, snickerdoodle or even oatmeal raisin. While cookies sound like an after dinner treat or a mid-afternoon snack, internet cookies are entirely different from a sweet you have with a glass of milk.

Cookies (which were previously called HTTP cookies) are small pieces of data stored on your computer by your web browser. It is made up of information and sent to your computer from websites you visit. It is then stored on your computer to remember your preferences or to allow you quick access by avoiding signing in each time you go to a certain site. All these cookies are stored on your computer in a file called cookies and can be accessed by you at any time.

Cookies tend to get a bad wrap, but its purpose is not always sinister. Cookies are there to help you keep track of your visits and activity. According to Norton, an antivirus software, cookies “help the website keep track of your visits and activity.” They go on to give the example of online shopping. “Online retailers use cookies to keep track of items in a user’s shopping cart as they explore the site. Without cookies your shopping cart would reset to zero every time you clicked a new link on the site.” Basically cookies make online shopping possible.

Privacy Cookies Website Data
Cookies are also used to store passwords on frequently used sites.

Cookies are also used to store passwords on frequently used sites. So you can thank cookies for not having to sign in to Facebook or Amazon each time you pull up their website.

And just like chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin, there are different types of cookies.

  • Session cookies have a short life span and are used only when you are active on a website. Once you leave, the cookie disappears.

  • Tracking cookies do as the name suggests, it makes long-term records of frequent visits to regularly visited sites.

  • Authentication cookies track if a user logged in and under what name.

Cookies can be helpful and necessary for browsing but it also should be managed. You can access cookies on your computer through tools on your web browser. You can choose to delete cookies or manage how cookies are stored. You can also decide to block cookies, however this may interfere with how webpages are loaded or make you unable to visit certain sites entirely.

In the digital world we live in, cookies are inevitable. However if you are careful and aware of what it is and what it does, allowing them on your device can be safe and time saving.

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If you have any questions please let me know!

Sarah Gray of HMG