Cookies aren’t just small nibbles of goodness to accompany a cup of tea or a glass of milk. There is another variety in the computing world and they’re a brilliant little tool for tailoring your online time.
They’re essentially designed to hold bite-sized chunks of data that are specific to you and the website you’re visiting and can be accessed by either the web server or the client computer. They’re simply a really convenient way to carry information from one session on a site to another.
The information that’s usually saved by the cookies can include your username, password, address, preferred font size and even the page layout that you prefer! Your username becomes the ‘key’ to unlock this information – so, when you make your next visit to the site, the server will recognise your username, read the cookie, retrieve all the relevant information and offer you a webpage that’s tailored to you and what you prefer.
When it comes to viewing the cookies, most browsers have a configuration screen which allows you to see what, if any, cookies are stored on your computer. You can even delete them if you wish to. However, it’s really important to note that one webpage cannot view cookies set by another site: this would represent both a security and a privacy problem too. Your cookie data is read only by the site that created it.
The cookie itself doesn’t pose any problem or threat to privacy because the only information they can ever store is the information that you volunteer. It is possible that the data you share could be passed on to third parties but this is no different to keeping it in a central database. It could be said that if you have concerns about the data not being treated confidentially, then maybe you need to question whether it’s information that you need to provide.
Cookies, unlike the biscuits, do not have a shelf-life. They won’t be removed unless you manually do so in your settings. You can delete, customise or block cookies using your settings in your browser.