What Are Internet Cookies?

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What Are Internet Cookies?

Internet cookies are small text files (255 characters or less) that are placed on your web browser or computer by web servers. A cookie is created when you first visit a site that wants to store information. This text file usually includes a name, an expiration date, a coded number, and the domain name of the visited site. When you return to a site, the cookie tells the site that a computer with code XYZ has returned and reminds it of your activities and preferences on your previous visits.

These details can include pages visited at the site, what you did when you were on the site, how many times you visited the site, language preferences, the IP address of your device, and your login information. The information collected from cookies enables websites to offer convenient logins and authentication, personalized experience for you through preference setting and language setting, enhanced online shopping experience, ad management, and more. So in and of themselves, cookies are not bad things. Cookies, for example, do not store any of your personal information such as your email address or phone number. However, because they allow third-party sites to track you across the web, there can be a downside to cookies , particularly if you are concerned about what some refer to as “targeted advertising” and others as “online spying” or “invasion of privacy.”

Types of Cookies

When a website sends the requested information to you, it also sends your web browser a cookie to help it track what was sent and how. This can be either a session cookie which is only for the specific visit or a persistent cookie that is saved in the web browser for an extended period of time. Session Cookies – Session cookies help websites to recognize you and remember the information provided by you as you move from one page to another within the same website. For example, e-commerce sites use session cookies to remember the items you place in your shopping cart as you go from one page to another on the site. Without session cookies, your shopping cart will be empty upon “Checkout” since your shopping activities on prior pages will not be remembered.

Session cookies only retain information about your activities during your visit to the site. Once you close the browser, the session cookies are lost and the site will not recognize you the next time you return to the site. Persistent cookies – Persistent cookies can exist for an extended period of time until expired or until they are deleted. They enable the site to recognize you on a continuous basis. This is done by the web server planting a small text file with a unique ID tag on your computer, while keeping a matching file on the server. On subsequent visits to the site, your browser delivers this cookie over to the site, allowing the site to retrieve the matching file.

Beware of the Supercookie

Not all cookies are created equal and stored in the same location. Supercookies, also known as flash or zombie cookies, are stored either online or in the users’ computer – outside of the usual location in the web browser. This makes them difficult to detect or manage using the standard cookie management tools.

For more information on supercookies and how to manage them, visit http://cookiecontroller.com/internet-cookies/flash-cookies/.


Some of the information provided on this article was taken from the sources below. You may also refer to the sources below to get additional information on cookies and how to protect your privacy online: