Cookies

Overview You probably have been hearing a lot about cookies recently, particularly in relation to online privacy issues. What is a cookie and what does it do? The popular perception of a cookie is that it is a hidden, secret file that is controlled by some outside “force” invading your computer and your privacy. Cookies actually help your computer perform tasks that may be useful to both you, as an e-commerce shopper, and to online marketers. Do cookies invade your online privacy, or are they helpful tools that guide you to online information more in tune with your tastes?

General Information Most of us have no idea of just what a cookie is and what it does. A cookie is simply a text file stored on your PC's hard drive. Cookies are created when you visit Web sites that are configured to create and use cookies. They typically include information that you provided to the Web site. For example, if you typed your name and address into a form at an online shopping site, the site may collect that information and store it as a cookie on your hard drive. The next time you visit that online shopping page, you won't have to type in your name and address, the site automatically loads it from the cookie stored on your system.

Visit Webopedia.com to read their definition of cookies, as well as to link to other sites with cookie resources. Further information about cookies and how to manage them is available on this AllAboutCookies.org  Web page. This page also provides tips on finding cookies on your system, removing them and editing them. Another great source of general cookie information is www.cookiecentral.com/.

Cookies Resources Additional cookie resources are easy to find online. By searching, using the keyword “cookies,” you will receive numerous results. The following list of Web pages contains a few of these resources.

Another way to learn more about cookies is by reading FAQ pages such as http://cookies.surferbeware.com/.

Cookies and Privacy Exactly how might cookies threaten your online privacy? For a clear answer to this question, visit www.junkbusters.com/ht/en/cookies.html. Additionally, this Web page offers instructions on how to rid your PC of unwanted cookies, and how to protect your online privacy. Be sure to visit the Electronic Privacy Information Center at www.epic.org/privacy/internet/cookies/. It includes current articles and newly filed legal complaints regarding Internet privacy. Also, at www.justtext.com you’ll find an FAQ page all about cookies and privacy. 

Privacy Software With all of the privacy problems that cookies present to the Internet user, software companies are developing products to help protect our personal information. These software products will help you to control the cookies stored on your hard drive. Visit the Online Privacy  Alliance Web site where you can get information about a wide variety of privacy issues regarding the Internet and online commerce. One specific privacy software package allows users excellent control over their cookies. It’s called the  “Cookie Crusher” and it’s available for download at www.pcworld.com/downloads/.