What Are Cookies?
Cookies, also known as HTTP cookies, are tiny bits of data that reside on your computer as simple text files. As you might expect, they don't take up much storage space at all. In fact, you probably won't even notice them at all – and that's the point.
They're meant to exist, running silently and invisibly, in the background of your favorite web browser. In many cases, they're harmless or even helpful; they can be used to store your login information, remember you shopping cart history and even remind you of the pages you've already visited.
HTTP cookies can also track your browsing habits between from site to site. This is where the biggest controversy and point of contention comes into play. While most sites use this feature with nothing but the best intentions – usually to provide advertisements or product placements that are specific to your demographic – but they have been used maliciously in the past.
Types of Cookies
It's important to understand the different types of cookies that are currently used by modern websites. This includes session cookies – which are only stored temporarily and generally deleted once your browser is closed – and persistent cookies. As their name suggests, persistent cookies remain stored in your browser, unless you specifically delete them, even after your close and restart the program.
There are also first- and third-party cookies, which are either created by the current website you're visiting in the case of the former or, in the case of the latter, generally used by advertisers to gauge the effectiveness of their online ads.
Most modern web browsers give you some amount of control over the cookies on your own system. They make it easy to delete your cookies, either individually or as a group, and some let you block certain websites from saving cookies onto your system in the first place. Protection like this is usually enough to mitigate any major issues that could be a result of malicious cookies.
However, cookie fraud is an issue that you might encounter online. This usually occurs when a hacker takes over a website and attempts to target its legitimate, unsuspecting visitors. In most cases, the hacker is trying to use these visitors in another, larger cyberattack elsewhere on the web.
Legal Implications of Online Cookies
How Modern Websites Use Online Cookies To Track Your Internet Activity
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