Does this message look familiar?

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Many of us come across messages like this regularly. Most people accept without consciously thinking about it.  Cookies are an important component that can tailor unique browsing experiences at an individual level.

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What is a cookie?  A cookie is created when you first visit a website.  When you return to the site, the cookie reminds the website that you have visited before. The cookie may include details such as pages you’ve visited on the site, website activity, number of times you’ve visited the site, language preferences, the IP address of your device, and your login information.

The data obtained from cookies allows websites to offer a personalized experience through saved logins and authentication, language setting, enhanced online shopping experience, ad management, and more.  In simple terms, cookies allow your login information to be saved and are fundamentals websites use to tailor products, ads, and content to you specifically, based on the information in the cookies.

There are different types of cookies, as described below:

  • First-Party Cookie: When a user first visits a website, the first-party cookie is transmitted to your device by the publisher or website owner. An example of a first-party cookie would be an airline website collecting your language and airport preferences to provide a more specific and personalized experience.
  • Third-Party Cookie: Third-party cookies are where targeted advertising comes into the picture.  Advertisers can use these to track a user across devices, allowing a profile to be built so that content can be targeted based on individual users and their specific Third-party cookies are typically the reason you see advertisements for products you’ve recently researched or looked up.
  • Session Cookie: Session cookies are temporarily stored in the browser’s memory and are used to link a user’s actions on a website to the browser’s temporary memory.  Once the user closes the browser, the cookies disappear.  Session cookies are used for website logins, storing an individual’s login credentials every time they visit a site. Websites use session cookies for site functions like ensuring faster page loads.
  • Persistent Cookie: A persistent cookie stays on your computer longer than other cookies. They are usually created with an expiration date. They are most commonly used for web analytics.  You can check for a persistent cookie by logging in to a website, then restarting your computer and returning to the same website. If you’re still logged in, the site is likely using a persistent cookie to remember you.
  • Secure Cookie: A secure cookie is a safe way to store information. These are only transmitted with encryption through HTTPS. Often these kinds of cookies can be found on checkout pages when buying items online. Sites that save credit card information also typically use secure cookies.

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Are Cookies Dangerous?

The short answer is, “no,” cookies are not inherently dangerous. Cookies don’t save personal information such as your email address or phone number. Because cookies allow third-party sites to track you across the web, there can be a downside to cookies as some people find targeting advertising intrusive. Most browsers allow users to delete cookies. You can delete individual cookies or remove all of them. You can also change browser settings to allow or block different types of cookies based on your personal preference.