What is a Cookie?
Cookies are harmless text files that are stored in your browser when you visit almost any website. Their main purpose is to recognise the user each time they visit the website. Although many people are unaware of this, cookies have been used for the past 20 years, when the first browsers for the World Wide Web appeared.
What is NOT a Cookie?
It is not a virus, a Trojan, a worm, spam, or spyware, and it does not open pop-up windows.
What Information Does a Cookie Store?
Cookies do not usually store sensitive information about you, such as credit cards or bank details, photographs, your ID or personal information, etc. The data they store is of a technical nature: personal preferences, personalisation of content, etc.
The web server does not identify you as a person; it recognises your web browser. In fact, if you regularly surf the internet using Internet Explorer and you then try visiting the same website using Firefox or Chrome, you will see that the website fails to notice that you are the same person because it only really identifies the browser, not the person.
What Types of Cookies Are There?
- Technical Cookies: these are the most basic and are used, amongst other things, to identify when a human or an automated application is browsing, and when an anonymous user is browsing or a registered user, which are basic tasks for any dynamic website to function.
- Analytical Cookies: these compile information on the type of browsing you are doing, the sections you use the most, the products you have consulted, your time zone, language, etc.
What are First and Third-Party Cookies?
First-party cookies are those generated by the website you are visiting and third-party cookies are those generated by external services or suppliers such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.
What Happens If I Disable Cookies?
The following are examples of what can happen if you disable cookies:
- You will not be able to share content from that website on Facebook, Twitter or any other social network.
- You will not be able to access the personal area of that website.
- The website will not be able to perform web analytics about visitors and traffic on the website, which will make it difficult for the website to be competitive.
Can Cookies be Deleted?
Yes. Not only can they be deleted, but they can also be blocked either entirely or for a specific domain.
To delete a website’s cookies, go to your browser’s settings where you will be able to search for the cookies associated with the domain in question and delete them.
Cookie Settings for the Most Popular Web Browsers
Here’s how to access a specific cookie in your Chrome web browser. Note: these steps may vary depending on the browser version:
- Go to Settings or Preferences under the File menu or click on the customisation icon on the top right-hand corner.
- You will see different sections. Click on Show advanced options.
- Go to Privacy, Content Settings.
- Select All cookies and site data.
- A list will appear of all the cookies ordered by domain. To help you find the cookies for a specific domain, enter the partial or complete address in the Search cookies field.
- After applying this filter, one or more lines will appear listing the cookies for the website requested. Now just select it and press X to delete.
To access the cookie settings in your Internet Explorer browser, follow these steps (they may vary depending on the browser version):
- Go to Tools, Internet Options.
- Click on Privacy.
- Move the slider to adjust the level of privacy you want.
To access the cookie settings in your Firefox browser, follow these steps (they may vary depending on the browser version):
- Go to Options or Preferences depending on your operating system.
- Click on Privacy.
- Under History choose Use custom settings for history.
- You will now see the option Accept cookies. You may enable or disable it according to your preferences.
To access the cookie settings of your Safari OSX browser, follow these steps (they may vary depending on the browser version):
- Go to Preferences, then Privacy.
- Here you will see the option Block cookies, allowing you to adjust how you would like to block them.
To access the cookie settings of your Safari iOS browser, follow these steps (they may vary depending on the browser version):
- Go to Settings, then Safari.
- Go to Privacy and Security, where you will see the option Block cookies, allowing you to adjust how you would like to block them.
To access the cookie settings for a browser on your Android device, follow these steps (they may vary depending on the browser version):
- Open the browser and press the Menu key, then Settings.
- Go to Security and Privacy. You will see the option Accept cookies, enabling you to check or uncheck the box.
To access the cookie settings for a browser on your Windows Phone device, follow these steps (they may vary depending on the browser version):
- Open Internet Explorer, then More, then Settings.
- You may now check or uncheck the Allow cookies box.