What You Need to Know About Cookies and Privacy

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What You Need to Know About Cookies and Privacy

What You Need to Know About Cookies and Privacy

As an Internet user, you are constantly using cookies in your browser. In fact, unless you’ve disabled them, you likely run cookies from several different websites, many with their own goals and ends.

But is that a bad thing? Should you disallow cookies? Should you be worried about your privacy?

We’ve put together this complete (non-technical) guide to cookies and privacy to help you make the best decision for your needs and wants.

So, let’s get started.

What are Cookies Anyway?

Cookies are small bits of data sent to your computer by a website you are browsing. This data communicates with the website, sharing crucial information between the site and your computer.

This data may serve many functions ranging from tracking whether or not you are a repeat visitor to keeping you logged into a site as you move between tabs.

For example, let’s say you’re on Amazon.com and you log in. You add a product to your shopping cart and then realize that you want to see what it costs on eBay.com before you go back. You type eBay.com into your browser, look up the product and realize that it’s more expensive. You type Amazon.com back into your browser, and you return to Amazon where you’re still logged in and your product is still in your cart. This is thanks to cookies, which act as identifier tags, telling Amazon who you were, what you did, and what you likely want to see again.

In most cases, your computer will store these cookies for 3 or more weeks – and you can typically change the settings to update that to more or less frequently.

What else do cookies do?

  • Track your location
  • Track which pages you visited
  • Track which topics or tags you look at to offer recommendations
  • Track keywords you use
  • Allow you to retain website settings (such as audio off)
  • Much more

In some cases, cookies are essential to the operation of a site, in others, they are merely convenient.

What Data do Cookies Collect?

Most cookies only collect data relating to the website you are visiting. In some cases, (Facebook and Google for example), they may collect more data such as the websites you are vising, keywords you type, and products you look at.

For example, Amazon cookies will typically track everything on their site ranging from what you type in a search bar to where your mouse overs on a page and even how long you spend on each page. They want to know what you did before you made a purchase so that they can facilitate that same progress for someone else.

Another website might do nothing more than track your location and the pages you visit – so that they can offer you the correct language or information – and they can see which pages are getting hits. In both cases, cookies are largely innocuous, harmless, and do not invade your privacy.

Do Cookies Share Data with Each Other?

No. Cookies cannot communicate with each other. Data picked up from one website cannot communicate with data from another website. Most cookies cannot even track what websites you visit other than the website that is from.

However, there are exceptions. Third party cookies like advertising cookies can track more of your data and more of your actions, which is why some people are concerned about them.

Click through to page 2 to learn more:

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About The Author
Brandy

Proliferate writer, sesquipedalian, techie, Apple fangirl (don’t judge),tree hugger, yogi, tea drinker, zombie hunter. Into philotherianism & philomathy. Love my job. Visit me on Google +

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