What are Cookies?

Cookies create a profile of your surfing habits. Basically a cookie is a file containing alphabets and numbers. When you open a website containing cookie through your browser it gets downloaded on your computer. Once downloaded it opens the memory of the browser and helps the website recognise you whenever you revisit the website.

Broadly There are Two Types of Cookies:

Session cookies: When you visit a website, these cookies are created in the sub-folder of your browser. Once you finish your work with the website and your session with the website is over the cookies are deleted. Session cookies are stored in a temporary memory and are immediately deleted the moment you close the browser. They are used to pass information about the session and do not store information about the user.

Persistent cookies: They remain in your browser even after your session with the website is over. They become active again when you re-visit the same website. However there is an expiration date set for the persistent cookies on which it expires. However the user can delete these cookies whenever he wants. They are used to get information about user behaviour or user’s preferences based on his browsing history.

A website has no other alternative to access information on your computer other than the cookie which it places on the browser’s folder. Cookie files have proved to be harmless so far. But they can be used to track all the browsing history of the user through its browser. Users have the option to limit the ability of the cookies by changing the settings of the browser. Cookie is a non-executable code which can only be used by the website that created it.

The main purpose of the cookies is to distinguish the user and based on his browsing history customize the web pages and thus increasing the usability of the website. A web server has no memory and it makes use of the cookie to store information about the user.

Cookies are generally considered safe and do not compromise security. But the cases with malicious cookies are becoming more common. These malicious cookies are used to track your online activities. By tracking your surfing habits they create user’s profile which can be sold to a third party which can be an advertising company. Antivirus software can detect such cookies as potential spyware.

First Party Cookies

You will come across this term while choosing privacy settings for your browser. First party cookies mean the cookies from the websites that you are currently browsing. It will store and track information about this particular website only.

Third Party Cookies

Unlike first party cookies they do not originate from the website that you are browsing and store information about your browsing history to send it a website that you are not browsing or viewing.

What cookies don’t do

Cookies are simple text files which are non-executable. They cannot track or store information from your computer’s hard disk. Cookies role is limited to the browser so that your preferences about webpages, shopping carts and other such features are submitted to the website. Your personal information stored on your hard disk cannot be accessed by the cookies.

Cookies for Mobile phones

Mobile phones make use of apps. Cookies, in order to serve the same purpose that they served in desktop environment should operate in these apps. In desktop environment the user may use various Operating Systems like Windows, Mac OS and Linux. But cookies make the best use of the browser and thus having a common environment. Mobile environment presents a challenge because mobile phones come with different OSs and the browsers. Browsers play different ‘sandboxes’ from apps on the same devices. For those who are new to this term called as ‘ sandbox’ can simply understand it as wrapping of apps through security policies so that outside influence cannot affect the apps. So our modest cookies face the challenge to identify user in the case of mobile phones.

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