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Computer Cookies

Everything you want to know about computer cookies

When you surf the Internet, websites you visit collect and record usage information about your computer such as your IP address, browser type, operating system you are using, web pages last visited, etc. This information automatically comes from your browser to identify you and track your browsing habits and activities.

As you surf the web, most web sites send cookies to your computer to track your Internet usage. Most cookies are "good" cookies, used for legitimate purposes, such as storing preferences, account information and remembering the choices you have made on the site. But some cookies are "bad". For example, cookies from one site might track your visits to different web sites to know your browsing habits, purchase history, etc.

Computer Cookies

General information about computer cookies. This article provides general information about computer cookies:

What are cookies?

A computer cookie is a piece of data which often includes an unique identifier, that is sent to your browser from a web site you visit, stores as a file on your computer, identifies you as a unique user and track your web usage. Computer cookies can do everything from monitoring your visit throughout web sites, tracking how many times you have visited the site, how long you have been on the site, your log-in information at a particular page to remembering important information about your computer.

How long cookies are stored on your computer

It depends on the type of cookies. There are two different types of computer cookies:

Session cookies

Session cookies ("non-persistent cookie") are cookies that only exist as long as your session on the web site lasts and expires as soon as you leave the website. The primary purpose of session cookies is to help with navigation, such as by indicating whether or not you've already visited a particular page and retaining information about your preferences once you've visited a page. So session cookies are used to facilitate your activities within that site.


Persistent cookies

The second type of cookies is "persistent cookies". Persistent cookies are stored on your computer in order to recognize user and retain his/her personal preferences when he/she returns to a website. E.g. because of persistent cookies a website remembers your name and password on protected login pages, your email address appears by default when you open your Yahoo! or Hotmail email account, or your personalized home page appears when you visit your favorite online merchant. Persistent cookies exist beyond the life of your Internet session and may live for months or years. In most browsers, you can adjust the length of time that persistent cookies are stored.

If anyone has access to your computer, he or she may use information stored in persistent cookies to gather personal information about you.

What are cookies used for?

The primary purposes of cookies is to recognize user and retain his/her personal preferences when he/she returns to a website. if you personalize Web pages, or register for products or services, a cookie helps the Web page server to recall your specific information. This may be useful to simplify the process of recording your personal information, such as billing addresses, shipping addresses, and so on. Cookies allow websites to store user preferences and retrieval of this information for viewing customization of movie listings, weather and other local information.

Cookies can do everything from monitoring your visit throughout web sites, tracking how many times you've visited the site, how long you've been on the site, your log-in information at a particular page to remembering important information about your computer. Cookies allow websites to track their visitors so that they can know how many visitors have viewed the site, how many repeat visitors they have received.


How websites use cookies

Internet offers a wide variety of useful services such as free e-mail accounts, online forums, and e-commerce sites. The use of cookies is essential for these sites. Without cookies, for example, the sites would have no way to track the items that you placed into your virtual shopping cart as you browsed about the site.

Session cookies are stored only until you close your browser. This type of cookie is mainly used to remember choices that you make as you navigate through a web site.

Persistent cookies allow web sites to recognize you when you return to these sites. Persistent cookies are used by websites to store your for preferences, maintain state information as you navigate different pages on a website or return to the website later, for identifying purposes, demographic statistics and also when you are shopping online ecommerce sites may use them to remember what you have in your shopping basket.

Can cookies be used maliciously?

In one of their malevolent forms, cookies from one web site might track your visits to a different web site. For example, most of the ads that you see on web sites do not come from the site that you are viewing, but from sites that provide ads to many sites. When the advertising site displays the ad, it can send cookies on your computer. This lets the advertising company track your web usage over a range of sites and profile your browsing habits.

Cookies and privacy

Every time you visit a website, it will look for its cookie on your hard drive. It uses the information stored within the cookie to know your name, your shopping preferences, etc.

Most browser offer advanced cookie management options that allows to accepte or reject cookies depending on if they are first-part or third-party cookies and/or particular domain of the issuer. So you have the ability to enable or disable cookies, or have your browser prompt you before accepting cookies. But be careful as disabling cookies may prevent some websites from working correctly. There is one very simple step for more privacy and to make sure that other sites are not collecting personal information about you without your knowledge, choose to only allow cookies for the web site you are visiting; block or limit cookies from a third-party.

Despite cookies are useful, they can also store such informattion as your name and password on protected login pages, preferences, account information and choices you have made on the site. So, even if you delete browser history, cookies like a map will show your surfing preferences, habits, passwords, etc. So to protect your privacy, you should constatly delete cookies.

In Internet Explorer and MSN Explorer even if you delete cookies manually, cookies index.dat file stores Internet surfing information. Cookies index.dat file can't be deleted manually as it is used by Windows all the time.

Disabling cookies does not make you anonymous or prevent web sites from tracking your browsing habits as websites you visit collect and record usage information about your computer such as your IP address, browser type, operating system you are using, web pages last visited, etc. This information automatically comes from your browser to identify you and track your browsing habits and activities.

What cookies can't do?

Can cookies "read" information from a hard drive?

No. Cookies are just harmless files. Cookies cannot look into information stored on your hard-drive. It is technically impossible for cookies to read personal information. Cookies can only store data that is provided by the server or generated by an explicit user action.

Can cookies be used to run programs and deliver viruses on your PC?

No. Cookies cannot be used to run programs or to deliver viruses to your computer.

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