What’s this about Cookies?

What’s this about Cookies?

by | Aug 10, 2019 | Tips

Firstly what is a cookie?

They are simple ’text files’ which you can read using the Notebook program on your own computer. Typically, they contain two pieces of information: a site name and unique user ID.

To find out the Cookies used on a website you can click the padlock in the URL box in Chrome.

First of all use the dropdown arrows to open all the information and highlight each cookie and click remove. Once all these have been removed, close the dialogue box and refresh the page. Then open up the cookie window again. This will flush out any old unused cookie information and then show you the real time cookies used.

How do they work?

When you visit a site that uses cookies for the first time, a cookie is downloaded onto your computer. The next time you visit that site, your computer checks to see if it has a cookie that is relevant (that is, one containing the site name) and sends the information contained in that cookie back to the site.

The site then ’knows’ that you have been there before, and in some cases, tailors what pops up on screen to take account of that fact. For instance, it can be helpful to vary content according to whether this is your first ever visit to a site – or your 71st.

The Good thing about cookies

Some cookies are more sophisticated. They might record how long you spend on each page on a site, what links you click, even your preferences for page layouts and colour schemes. They can also be used to store data on what is in your ‘shopping cart’, adding items as you click.

The possibilities are endless, and generally the role of cookies is beneficial, making your interaction with frequently-visited sites smoother – for no extra effort on your part. Without cookies, online shopping would be much harder.

…and the bad

so why the paranoia? The answer probably depends on how you feel about organisations – both big business and government – storing information about you. There is nothing especially secret or exceptional about the information gathered by cookies, but you may just dislike the idea of your name being added to marketing lists, or your information being used to target you for special offers. That is your right, just as others are entitled to go along with the process.

When cookies first started to appear, there was controversy. Some people regarded them as inherently sneaky – your computer was being used (without warning) to store personal information about you, which could then be used to build a picture of your browsing habits.