Curious About Cookies?

What is a cookie and why are they used?

A cookie is essentially a message from a website which is stored on a web browser as a text file. That file usually includes the lifetime of the cookie (how long it stays on your browser), where the cookie was sent from (server name) and a unique number (usually randomly generated)

Some store information about a user so that when they revisit a website, it can provide them with personalised pages. For example, some websites that use cookies ask you to input some information such as your name and what interests you. This is then stored in the cookie. When you visit that site again, it may personalise pages with your name and even show you advertisements based on your interests. You will have to provide this information for it to be stored in a cookie, it can’t just be taken and any information you do give will be encrypted so that it is secure. Not all cookies store personal information, in fact, most collect non-identifiable information to improve user experience or find out how users interact with the website.

They are used in online shopping to keep track of the products you add to your cart, when logging into an account on a website and to improve user experience and track how the website is being used. Seeing what pages are visited the most and the ones that are neglected can give you an indication is there is a problem with a particular page on the site e.g. it is not loading correctly, needs more information.

Main Cookie Types

Session Cookies- While you are visiting a website, session cookies will be temporarily stored. Once you leave the site, the cookie will be removed.

Persistent Cookies – These remain in your browser’s folders for a set amount of time which is detailed within the cookie. They are activated when you revisit the website that originally created the cookie.

Third Party – As you can probably tell from the name, these come from third party websites and not the website you are on. They are used by advertisers and basically gather data about what content your looking at. Some of the websites that commonly use third party cookies are: Google, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Are cookies bad?

No, they are just text files, they can’t harm your computer! Most sites will tell you if they use cookies on their site anyway and will give you the option to view more information on what data they collect/store.

Some of the common myths about cookies are that they contain viruses, can take your personal information, control your computer and access your hard drive. It’s not true and if you really are that bothered about them being there just clear them out of your browser or disable them.

Also there are laws that govern the use of cookies, you can check them out in more detail here.





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