Have you ever had a pop-up from a website talking about cookies? Unfortunately, they’re not offering you free chocolate chip cookies. These pop-up messages often include a disclaimer about not selling your data, but why? What are cookies, and why do so many websites use them?
What are cookies?
Many people are a little freaked out by the idea of their data being stored. However, cookies are pretty much harmless! They are essentially pieces of information stored as text strings within your computer. Web servers send these strings to your device, and the cookies get stored within your browser.
There are two categories of internet cookies: session and persistent.
Session cookies get erased as soon as you exit your web browser; they aren’t stored on your computer, and they aren’t storing any information for the next time you visit the website. Basically, these text strings only serve to preserve the information you’ve already put into the website as long as you’re on it. For example, if you’ve already answered a question on the website, the session cookie will ensure that you don’t have to answer that question again while you’re on the site. Then, when you leave that website, the cookie gets deleted.
Persistent cookies are typically only used to store a user ID or login information; Amazon is a great example of this. When you shop on Amazon, they store a little text string with your specific user ID. That way, the next time you visit their website, they’re able to recognize that it’s you. You may even see a “welcome back, (your name)” message at the top of the page.
What do cookies do?
It’s really simple: cookies make your website browsing experience easier. They store the information you put into a website, and they can sometimes track your activities while you’re on the site. They don’t track your activity for any reason other than to tailor your website experience more directly to you. Using this information, they can show you other products or articles you may be interested in looking at on the site.
That’s really all that’s involved in internet cookies. Ones from reputable websites are encrypted; they cannot spread computer viruses, contrary to popular belief. Additionally, they do not allow the owners of the website to see your personal information. They are safe, secure, and harmless! No reason to be afraid of them at all.
Why do so many websites use this method of data collection?
On most websites, you can choose to opt out of cookies if you don’t want any of your information to be stored. This is perfectly okay, and an option you should definitely take advantage of if it makes you more comfortable! The main functions that cookies serve is to save login information for visitors to certain websites. By keeping this information on the website for you, it enhances and simplifies the browsing experience.