Cookies

June Huang's picture

Cookies, in short, are pieces of information that are stored on your computer when you visit a website. Websites use cookies to keep track of your activities on the website, for example, your login state. When you browse through or revisit the website, the website's cookie data are sent back to the website so that certain activity-related information can be displayed to you. Below I shall provide some examples of using cookies and discuss the privacy concerns regarding them.

Websites can use cookies to track user activity, save preferences and gather information about the user. The following are some examples where cookies are used: E-commerce websites like Amazon, use cookies to remember the items that customers put in their shopping carts. In doing so, customers do not necessarily have to log in before they are able to shop on the website. Cookies can be used to store customizations like language, localization settings and interface layout for the users' needs and convenience. Cookies are also commonly used for personalized advertising, for example, advertisements on Google and Facebook. Various information about your interests can be gathered through recent searches and the links you click. Once advertisers learn these information, they can offer advertisements that would appeal to you so that you are more tempted to click on the advertisement.

Although cookies are simply just text files and can be deleted by the user at any time, there are privacy issues associated with some of its uses. Most people are not aware that cookies are used at all and that their personal data are being collected. Even if they did know, they will have no control over what third party websites do with their information. Browsers offer cookie settings that lets users allow or disable cookies for specific or all websites. Disabling cookies for all websites might not be a good idea since some websites require cookies in order to function. Lastly, remember that cookies are not shared between different browsers so you will have to edit the cookie settings individually on each browser.

References:
[1] HTTP cookie. (2012, September 17). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 11:14, September 19, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=HTTP_cookie&oldid=513075176
[2] How to Enable Cookies. Amazon: Help. Retrieved 16:55, September 19, 2012, from http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200156940
[3] Advertising privacy FAQ. Google: Policies & Priciples. Retrieved 17:16, September 19, 2012, from http://www.google.com/policies/privacy/ads/
[4] Cookies, Pixels, and Similar Technologies. Facebook: Help Center. Retrieved 17:48, September 19, 2012, from http://www.facebook.com/help/cookies