What are browser cookies? - OneLaunch
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OneLaunch
1 May 2020 By OneLaunch
What are browser cookies?

If you’ve used the internet in the past year or so, you’ve probably seen the messages across most websites notifying you that they rely on cookies. These cookies are small bits of data that store information about you. Think of them as a portion of a digital fingerprint that sites can use to identify you and your system. Cookies are great for storing passwords and usernames and they allow sites to cater their content specifically to your interests.

How Cookies Work

Cookies are small data packets that sites transfer to your browser to store information. Whenever you return to that site, it looks at the cookies and can determine a lot about you and your browser. Historically, cookies held information like your username and password, as well as various site-specific settings. However, sites can only store a certain number of cookies and each cookie holds very little information. Because of this, domains prefer to store that information using different methods and use cookies to link you to their stored settings.

For example, a site may assign you a random identification number and then store a cookie on your computer that marks you as that number. On their end, that number links to all of your information. Notably, sites can only look at the cookies that they create. Cookies from other websites remain hidden to them.

Benefits of Cookies

Because cookies are both able to store information themselves and allow sites to tie you to more data, they provide many benefits. One popular usage for cookies is storing login information like your usernames and passwords. They also store site-specific preferences and data such as what’s in your cart and what topics interest you. If you’ve ever used a site like YouTube on a new computer or browser without signing in and noticed that none of the videos are relevant to you, it’s because there are no cookies that connect you to your interests. This is another reason why most sites prefer to store information using methods other than cookies.

What You Should Know

While cookies are usually quite helpful, they also have other uses. Advertising and tracking companies use cookies to track you across various sites. While sites can’t peek at cookies that don’t belong to them, they can sell the information they gather to advertising companies and other groups. They then use this information to tailor ads to you and promote content that might interest you. In recent years, the use of cookies to track users has sparked debate concerning internet privacy rights.

How to manage your browser cookies

If you wish, you can manage and delete cookies from your browser. While the exact method depends on what browser you use, the general instructions remain the same. Remember that deleting your cookies will sign you out of most sites and they will not be able to cater content specifically for you.

To manage your cookies, travel to your browser’s Settings. In Chrome, OneLaunch, and other Chromium browsers, you can do this through a button on the top right of your browser that looks like three vertical dots. Once there, look for the Privacy and Security section, but you may need to click the Advanced button to see this section. From there, Site Settings, then Cookies, and finally See all cookies and site data. If you want to delete your cookies, just choose Remove all.

Conclusion

Cookies can be extremely helpful for sites that want to provide a personalized experience to their users. However, users may not think that the benefits are worth the possible invasions of privacy. Thankfully, modern internet browsers like Chrome and OneLaunch make it extremely easy to manage and remove cookies with just a few clicks.