Internet Cookies: Love 'em or Lose 'em?

by hmiller 30. October 2009 20:22

What Are Internet Cookies?

An Internet cookie is a text file that a website saves to your hard drive when you visit their site. This is helpful for websites to get an accurate representation of how many different people visit their site and how often. They can also make polls and surveys and ensure that no one is voting more than once.

It's also helpful to the visitor, for example, who want to save preferences. For example, if you like to check the weather and you enter your zip code, a cookie on your computer will notify the website that it's you that's looking at the webpage. They can automatically load the website with your location information in place. You don't have to reenter your zip code!

Here's another example of how cookies help you. If you check your email or log in to any other website, you can check to save your user name on your computer and it will be entered for you the next time you visit. Conveniences like shopping carts on online stores would not be possible without cookies. For many types of basic browsing and Internet uses, cookies are helpful and necessary.

How Internet Cookies Affect You

Since website store information about your searches, browsing practices, and purchases, it can be questionable whether cookies are really doing you a favor. Should you allow these website to gather this somewhat personal information? Well, for one thing, you are still anonymous. A cookie will just identify you as a string of letters and numbers. The only information it has is what you give it. For example, if you add your name and email address onto the website to register for their services, you are volunteering this extra information. Furthermore, if you use a free email account and a phone name, they still don't really know anything about you.

The worst thing that could happen from cookies having your information, or from registering your name and email on a website is that you might start getting unwanted email advertising. Unless you are a very private or overly cautious person, you will not suffer from allowing the websites you visit to store cookies on your computer.

Recommended Privacy Settings

There are differing options on what would be the best way to handle cookies. There are always going to be a few conspiracy theories going around about how terrible and unsafe the Internet is. The truth is that prominent Internet websites from reputable companies will often have a privacy policy to protect your information and only use it for their own marketing purposes (like recommending items similar to those you searched for or bought). ISP's and Internet browsers like Internet Explorer are constantly looking for ways to keep you safe and often block or warn you about harmful website. Most of the time, if you just use the default setting to handle your cookies, you will be safe and be able to use the Internet as you please.

There are two extremes when it comes to handling cookies. For example, you might be advised to not allow any cookies other than the ones from trusted sites whose privacy policy promises not to sell your personal information, and delete all your cookies once day/week/month, etc. This might sound like a great idea, but it is a lot of work, and, as mentioned in the previous section, is not really necessary unless you are overly concerned about your privacy. Furthermore, any time you begin placing stricter guards on your Internet surfing, you risk causing some features not to work properly, for example:

* If you don't allow session cookies, you might not be able to stay logged into your email long enough to finish writing your message and lose your content when you click send.

* If you block all cookies from incoming websites, some perfectly safe websites will not be able to load certain functions, or may not load at all. If you get a message on your browser saying that something like "this page cannot load because you are not accepting cookies", it means you must either add the site to your safe list or lower your cookies restrictions if you want that site to load.

*If you constantly delete cookies, websites will not be able to save log in information and preferences.

The other extreme to the recommendations for your Internet privacy is to allow all and every cookies, both first and third party cookies. This is not necessarily bad for you, because your safely on the Internet often correlates directly with what websites you go to. If you only surf on secure websites and only do basic browsing, like surfing, banking, and reading news, etc., you might never have any problems with privacy infringement. Sometimes, allowing all cookies, or deleting all your stored cookies is recommended by computer technicians if you are having problems viewing webpages because this is the easiest way to ensure that your browser settings or stored information is not causing the problem.

The best cookie settings depends on you and your surfing habits. For most users, leaving the cookies at the default settings and occasionally clearing all temporary Internet files is the best recommendation.


Written by Hannah Miller, Online Marketing Representative and Customer Service, is a nationwide Internet services provider that is all-American owned and operated. Call today, 1-800-336-3318 or sign up online at! Check out my blog for more articles!

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About the author

Hannah Miller is an Online Marketing Representative for - America's best provider for Dial-Up Internet Service since 1997.

Hannah has been a Customer Service and Tech Support agent for since 2007, which has supplemented her knowledge of dial-up, computers, and the Internet. The entries that are posted in this blog are professional articles relating to our industry. Email your questions, suggestions, and other comments to

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