Cookies are small pieces of information that a website stores on a user’s computer, and they are retrieved each time the user visits the website. Generally this is done to provide convenience for the user, such as “remembering” the user each time he or she visits the website.
Cookies can also collect statistical data about your browsing actions and patterns allowing websites to review and improve the information they serve to you.
Cookies cannot be used to infect your computer with a virus and there are no security issues with cookies. Neither can cookies access any other information on your computer. The main privacy concern that users have is that cookies allow a website to track what users do on that website and from this the website owners or their affiliated partners are able to target users with specific advertising based on what they deem to be of interest to that user.
What types of cookies are there?
Broadly, there are three main types of cookies which are generally in use:
‘Strictly necessary’ or ‘Essential’ cookies
‘Performance’ or ‘Analytics’ cookies
These cookies collect anonymous information about users for the purpose of assessing the performance of a website. Common uses include well-known web analytics tools such as ‘Google Analytics’.
These are cookies that are set by a website other than the one you are on. If you visit a website and a separate company sets a cookie through that website, this would be a third-party cookie.
The take-away here?
Cookies may be helpful, they may be misused, and they can be downright annoying- however, they are over all genuinely safe. You can always go into your browsers settings to delete or ‘clear’ cookies. This allows you to effectively reset your browser. You will however lose your saved login information for that browser.