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What are cookies?

Tuesday, November 9th, 2004 by | Filed Under: Using The Internet
 
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Q:
What are “Cookies”?

A:
When you hear the term “cookies” applied to the internet, it’s generally not in reference to the gooey chocolate chip variety. A cookie used on the internet is basically a small text file that is placed on your hard drive by a web server. They are used to keep track of various aspects of your travels through the site in question.

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They can be used to keep track of passwords, shopping patterns, what type of pages you like, your preferences for that particular site, and more.

For example, if you’ve ever “joined” any kind of site that requires a login and password, you’ve probably noticed a “click here to remember your login information” checkbox (not all sites have it, but most do). The site remembers this info by using cookies.

Another example would be a site that you can customize to your liking. If you have a site that “remembers” what type of news, sports ,weather or other preferences you like, they are probably using cookies to do this.

The disadvantage of course is that these sites get a little bit of information about you, especially how you are moving through the site. Remember: A cookie by itself can’t read (or damage) your hard drive. They only way a site gets personal information about you is if YOU provide it.

OK, I may take a little heat for this, but my personal recommendation is not to worry too much about cookies. In general they are more helpful than harmful. If you’re worried about your privacy, don’t give out any personal information. It’s that simple!

~ Steve

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