Have you ever noticed that your computer just seems to know which ads to show to you? Or if you search online for a particular product, that ads for this same product will continually pop up as you browse other web pages?
No, your computer is not getting to know you better or becoming a more intelligent “being”… web pages are simply customizing your online experience through web cookies.
The “cookies” part of the term refers to tiny pieces of information that your web browser stores on your computer. Since they are only data, cookies won’t make any changes to your computer.
They function just like an online dating profile. A dating profile uses key information about you to match you with other compatible users. While browsing the Internet, you enter in key information about yourself and your interests. This information is stored and used to match you to the information you’re looking for. The cookies also help identify you. If you online shop, you utilize a website’s cookies when you place an item in your shopping cart then continue to browse other items on the page.
If that still seems a bit vague, think about a restaurant or shop that you frequent. When you walk in to order your coffee or meal, and the cashier asks “the usual”? That’s a web cookie in action. Your server recognizes you, remembers your usual request (the cookie) and uses it to make your experience more enjoyable.
If a bunch of websites keeping tabs on you makes you squeamish, you can also easily clear out your cookies and customize settings on different websites. Depending on your browser, this can usually be done by selecting Privacy settings.
What do you think? Are web cookies worth the potential privacy breach?