What are Internet Cookies? Are Computer Cookies Harmful

What are Internet Cookies

Have you ever opened a random website which lands you with a message poping on screen asking permission to accept cookies? Did you ever wonder what are cookies? People who are well versed with computer knowledge might be knowing this. But what about the people who accept these cookies having no awareness about it? One should know what is a cookie? And why is it used? To avoid the confusions of a cookie with a virus attack on your system, hence I have written this article.

 In this article I have  provided some detailed facts on the reasons why Cookies are used, variants of cookies, and to clarify doubts like are they harmful? What kind of data does it store? etc. This is to educate the users with the basics of internet, so that you are aware about what happens when you click ‘Yes’ for cookies.  

What are cookies and how does it work?

Cookies, popularly known as an Internet Cookies or Web Cookies, is a word used for small packets which stores data about the user and their browsing history. These cookies are not harmful unless a virus is embedded into it. It is a technical term for the phenomena where a browser sends a notification to the server with the gathered data. This helps to customise web pages or helps in saving information for logging in for certain webpages. For example: To save passwords for different accounts like Gmail, LinkdIn, Twitter, etc, the entire information gets saved in server.

Next time you enter any website by utilising a cookie, you will be approached by the browser to enter your nonexclusive data like your name, email id and your types of interests. The data is then packaged into a cookie by your internet browser which is utilised further. This data is packaged as a cookie by your internet browser which is then sent to the server. Each time your program demands for a website page this cookie is sent to the server.

A cookie helps to track your website surfing habits which further helps the webpages to track your interest hence it helps you to customize the ads or websites accordingly. For example, when you surf through the products in Amazon.in, the very second, you’ll start seeing ads on YouTube with the products which you were searching for. This is nothing but cookies. It helps in customizing the content till such an extent that they can target you on your common website habits. This helps them to pin point your common interests. Hence, it is a very powerful tool for digital marketing as well.

What are the different types of Cookies?

1. Transient Cookie

Transient Cookies are like short-term cookies. Meaning, these stop working as and when you exit from your web browser. This type of cookie does not gather any permanent information from your browsing habits. It only stores on the basis of sessions that one has spent on the webpage.  Hence, it does not collect information on a personal level. 

2. Persistent Cookie

Persistent cookie is a permanent cookie, it stays in your system until it gets expired or unless one deletes it by themselves. Most of the time persistent cookies always have a set expiry date. Since this is more on a personal level, it stores information on an individual level. Hence, it allows to track the user’s website habits, interests, etc.  

What kind of information does it store?

The cookies has a fixed number of parameters for which it can hold information. This information is about the user gathered from the browser. Cookies doesn’t have to know every small detail about the user like where is he/she from, their age, or their gender, etc. However, some cookies do collect more details about the user. But this can happen only if you have provided your personal information to your browser. 

The six parameters that can be used by the cookie are:  

  1. Name
  2. Value
  3. Expire date - this helps condition the cookie to a set time period to the cookie
  4. Path for a cookie - this is to determine which URL path the cookie is valid for
  5. Validity of a cookie for a particular domain  
  6. Secure connection -  a cookie can only be used for a secure server

As you know, cookies are just to gather information of the user. It cannot be harmful unless you execute a virus into the cookie. You need not worry about the cookies present in the browsers.