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Have you ever opened an online store website like Amazon and realized that the items you previously added to your cart but did not purchase were still in the cart where you left them?
Or have you ever opened a website that requires you to sign in–like Facebook– and realize that it logged you in automatically?
All these features became possible thanks to internet cookies.
Internet cookies are small pieces of information stored inside your web browser by websites you visit.
This stored information allows a website to track your surfing session to remember you on your next visit and provide a more personalized experience.
Although internet cookies are essential to modern internet browsing, they could make your privacy vulnerable.
Why internet cookies?
Many websites rely on internet cookies to unlock features like remembering the user’s preferences and adjusting the content to display.
Among other things, internet cookies help:
- The navigation flow of websites
- Provide personalized browsing experience (for example, Amazon remembers the last items you viewed)
- Create ads targeted to you
- Remember your username and password to facilitate access to websites.
Types of internet cookies
There are two general types of internet cookies:
- Single-session cookies: remain saved in your browser for just the duration of your browsing session. Therefore, once the browser closes, it deletes all single-session cookies.
- Persistent or multi-session cookies: These remain saved on your computer and record more information every time you visit the websites that generated them. Although multi-session cookies often have a lifespan set for 30 days, most only get deleted manually.
Do websites track me using cookies?
Under the two general types of internet cookies, there are many subtypes. The most common are:
- First-party cookies. Generated and only used by the website you navigate, First-party cookies are (generally) helpful. As aforementioned, many websites rely on cookies to offer a good browsing experience.
- Third-party cookies. These come from other websites through the ads displayed on the website you are surfing. Therefore, they can track your activity through any website that displays their ads. These cookies are the ones to watch for. They allow advertisers to track your activity across multiple websites.
- Zombie cookies are third-party cookies that get permanently installed on computers even when the user opts-in no cookies. They are also called flash cookies and can be challenging to remove.
How to disable, block, or delete internet cookies
Clearing the cookies from your device really depends on the web browser you’re using (such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, or Internet Explorer).
The general path to follow is usually to:
- Find the Menu options (the icon for this is usually small dots or horizontal lines placed on the upper far right-hand corner of the browser screen) and click to open.
- Open the browser settings or preferences. Sometimes this option appears as “Settings,” “Internet Options,” or just “Options,” depending on the browser.
- Click on the privacy tab
- Delete, block (or enable if you want them) cookies from the privacy tab.
For a more detailed step-by-step on how to disable, block, or delete internet cookies, click here.
How to handle all the cookies warnings on websites?
The European Union (EU) requires all websites that might be in business with anybody in Europe must comply with EU regulations on cookies.
When prompted with a choice of which cookies to allow on the website you are surfing, you should only allow the ones required by the website to function (Usually greyed out anyway).
To learn more about protecting your online privacy, read one of our previous articles found here.
Leave a comment below with any questions or input that you might have.
Techspert Jonathan is Senior Planet’s Sr Digital Community Relations and Product Specialist and a former Senior Planet San Antonio technology trainer. He is also an iOS developer with a background in Information Systems and Cyber Security.
Jonathan, Senior Planet’s Techspert columnist, answers one of your questions every month… but for exclusive tech reports, talks, webinars and more, become a Senior Planet official Supporter. Learn more about becoming a Supporter and access to exclusive events and offerings here.