What Exactly is a Computer Cookie?

If the word cookies instantly brings chocolate chips to mind, you are one among many. Even people who are very good with computers are not always familiar with computer cookies. Basically, these cookies are small pieces of information that are stored on your computer whenever you visit a website. Are cookies a good thing or a bad thing? Actually, they are both. Below is a discussion of both the pros and cons of computer cookies.

kid peeking at cookie jar

Computer cookies are Web usage files, not treats in a cookie jar.

Pros of Computer Cookies

When cookies are used as they were originally intended, they help businesses and websites offer better service and assistance to customers. They do this by recording your shopping and browsing habits, favorite items, preferences, and more. They then use this information to make recommendations for products, services, and information that may be useful. This can make your online browsing and shopping experiences much more fulfilling and easy.

Many people are unaware at how much their Internet experience is influenced by the storage and use of cookies. They provide so many benefits that it is hard to imagine using the Internet without them. Tragically, these little bits of information may also have a darker side that is not so desirable.

Cons of Computer Cookies

Unfortunately, cookies are not always used as intended. As with all technology, there are unscrupulous individuals who have found ways to exploit computer cookies to their advantage. The ability of cookies to record user information for later reference provides a security risk. At the least, it can annoy the life out of people by bombarding them with spam and pop up ads from anywhere and everywhere. At worst, it can target users for identity theft and other illegal activities.

Because of the dangers of Internet cookies, legislation has been passed in recent years to limit the negative uses of cookies. The goal of these laws is to protect user privacy while still allowing the benefits of cookies to businesses and websites. As with any laws regarding the Internet, it is difficult to know what needs to be done. It is also nearly impossible to enforce the laws once they are in place as well.

Internet cookies can be extremely useful and helpful or they can create a complete nightmare for Internet users. It depends entirely on the way they are used. You can protect yourself from the misuse of cookies by performing simple maintenance on a regular basis. All you have to do is to go into Internet options and choose to delete all cookies. Remember, however, that as soon as you delete them, they will start building up again. As such, it is necessary to delete them regularly to provide protection against unwanted cookie use.

While cookies are neither entirely good or entirely bad, they are a part of the Internet experience. In order to protect yourself from exploitation by criminals who use cookies, it is important to regularly go into your browser settings to rid your computer of all such files.

[Read also: 10 Ways to Protect Personal Information Online]

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