If you've been using the net for a while now, you must have come accross popped up cookie banners prompting you to accept to move on with activities on the site. But what exactly are cookies, and how are they used by online service providers?
Cookies are simple text files, containing ID tags stored up on your device browser directory or program data subfolders. They are created on visiting sites with cookie trackers to keep track of your activities within the site. Its purpose is to identify users, save site login details, and create customised web pages tailored to individual’s preferences. In essence, it provides a detailed picture of your online activity within a site, which helps to improve user experience, creating a more tailored and relevant browsing session. However, many are skeptical of how this information is used and its vulnerability that calls for concern.
Websites often use different types of cookies to keep track of different types of activity. The three most commonly used are; Session Cokie, Stored Cookie, and Third Party Cookie.
Session Cookie: Session cookies are only stored up for a duration of browsing session and gets automatically deleted on exit or completion. They are stored up in your browser’s temporary memory folder and do not collect personal data. They are mostly adopted by online shopping sites where information is passed from one page to another.
Stored Cookie: Stored cookies work by tracking your online preferences. They collect Identity information, such as username, password etc. These details are automatically saved and filled on next time visit to the site.
Third-Party Cookies: A third-party cookie, also commonly known as a tracking cookie, collects data based on your online behaviour. When you visit a website, third party cookies will collect different types of data that are passed on or sold to advertisers by the website that created these cookies. This is the reason why some ads will follow your around the internet. You may have searched for a specific product on one site, yet ads will pop up on different websites for the same product or brand. Third party cookies can be disabled in your browser settings to prevent third party advertisers gaining access to your search history and browsing habits.
Cookies has its good side but so also its bad side as some do pose serious security risk. For instance, ‘Super cookies’ are designed to be permanently stored on a user’s device and cannot be deleted in the same way as regular cookies. Some third-party cookies, otherwise known as ‘Zombie Cookies’ can pose serious problems as they are difficult to detect and self recreate as soon as they are deleted.
Here are some reasons you may want to consider regarding deleting cookies
• Privacy Concern: Since most websites refuse access unless cookies are enabled, some browsers are set to accept cookies by default. As a result, cookies are being stored "invisibly" on your hard drive every time you browse the Internet. Since your IP address is usually collected, your browsing history and online activities become public knowledge. As previous cyber attacks have demonstrated, hackers can potentially hijack cookies, gaining access to online sessions, to steal vital informations involving personal data.
• Storage Space Concern: Since cookie files are actually stored up on your hard drive, the more you surf the Web, the more cookies you accumulate. This builds up over time, and can take up quite a bit of storage space. It can also go a long way to affect your browser's effectiveness, causing lag of some sort. Fortunately, most modern browsers like Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer have options to clear cache and delete cookies either manually or automatically when you exit.
• Third Party Cookie Activity Concern: When you visit websites that contain ads, third-party cookies (from sites you've never visited) can also be placed on your computer. Web servers then retrieve the third-party cookies to gain information about you--your lifestyle, spending habits and browsing frequency, for example. The information is usually used to obtain more sales and clients, but is also often shared with other unknown individuals, groups or websites.
• Accessibility Concern: You may need to use a public computer to check an email or to shop online but unless you are deleting your cookies after every session, the next person who logs on could potentially see your entire history. Or worse still, log in to your online banking or shopping accounts masquerading as you.
Have you had any negative experience mentioned above regarding cookies?
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