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Website Cookies, What are they & what do I need to know about them?

on Thu, 11/04/2010 - 14:30

Out in the wild wild world of websites and web tracking we have a subject matter called cookies, also known as "Magic Cookies." Yes, the origin does go back to Sesame Street and Cookie Monster it is true. There are two common types of cookies in general use on websites. They are the first party cookies and the 3rd party cookies.

A first party cookie is a cookie that is set by the website you are visiting, and it will only be sent back to that website when you visit it. A third party cookie is a cookie set by someone other than the main website you are visiting. This third party can then track your activity on any website that it shares this cookie with.

Generally many websites use first party cookies to identify things like abandon shopping carts or user names. This helps the site personalize the customer experience when the user returns or throughout the session.

Google uses 3rd party cookies to support its ad engine. This is why you will receive custom ads on many websites that use Google Ads. This type of cookie can be used to identify the different websites you have visited recently and determine what ads you receive based on that. People are generally more wary of third party cookies because while Google is for the "greater good" in theory, many other spyware and evil internet people have tried to exploit third party cookies for spying purposes.

First party cookies are essentially a one to one relationship while third party cookies could be considered a one too many relationship.

Cookies can be considered good because they can help personalize your experience with a website storing custom information.
Cookies can be considered bad because they remove your anonymity.

It's a good idea to be aware of the existence of cookies and to clear them from time to time.
If privacy is a major concern to you, you should not accept cookies or simply clear them often.

If you clear your cookies often, you will likely become more aware of where cookies are used and based on that may come up with your own cookie level acceptance.

If you want to talk cookies sometimes, grab some milk and send me an e-mail.

And from a very high level, that's how the cookie crumbles.

To clear your cookies in Internet Explorer 7, go to tools > delete browsing history and click “delete cookies.”

To clear your cookies in Internet Explorer 6, go to tools > internet options and click “delete cookies.”

In Firefox, you can go to tools and pick “clear private data.”

After you delete your cookies, you may notice that sites no longer remember things about you (login info, for instance), which is the whole point!

Chris Carino