If you go to any search engine and type
"cookie", you'll get a zillion sites, some even with recipes. If you concentrate
on the Browser sort of cookie, there are still a lot.
Technically, a cookie is a text file put on your computer (in Win95 it's in the
directory) by a website. (Netscape was actually who developed them, so you can't blame
Bill for their beginnings.) You'd think from all the hysteria surrounding them that they'd
be something more complicated, but they're not.
The reason most people are concerned about cookies is because they feel they are an
invasion of privacy. From Cookie Central
Basically cookies cannot harm your computer. The general controversy is not
what cookies can do to your computer, but what information they can store, and what they
can pass on to servers
A website can tell an amazing amount about you whether you accept cookies or not. Don't
believe me ? Go to anonymizer
Then come back here.
If a website asks you to fill out a form, chances are it's to configure a cookie so
that the next time you're at the site it remembers who you are and what your preferences
are. That way they don't have to ask for your name and password every time you want
download updates (or whatever).
By default, most browsers automatically accept cookies. You can go to your browsers Help
File to find out how to either totally block cookies from being deposited or to set it
up to ask before accepting cookies. If you block all cookies, you'll run the risk of
having your request to enter a website denied, or, the site may not show up properly. If
you have the computer ask before accepting cookies, you'll have control over which cookies
you want to accept. It will drive you absolutely berserk, but you do have more control.
There are some cookies that help you and the site, and some that just help the website.
Say you go to a website, say Ford. Ford drops a cookie on your computer. All it
can do is see where you go within the Ford website. It's a good for the web admins
because they can tell traffic patterns - i.e. which pages people visit and pages they
don't. They can also tell from the cookie how many times you've been to their site and how
long it's been. Yeah, they could put a counter up, but a counter can't tell if three
people looked at a page, or one person hit 'refresh' twice.
So now you go to another site, say, the Keebler website. Keebler drops a
cookie of it's own. It has no idea that the Ford cookie's there, and not only can't read
it, could care less. The Keebler cookie may track how long it's been since you were at the
Keebler site, where in the site you were, and that's about it.
Now if you zip on over to Microsoft, they have whole areas where they don't let you in
if you won't accept cookies. If you want to look something up in their Knowledge database,
they need to add to the cookie you got the last time you were there - they're gonna track
where you went in the site, what you searched for, they know what operating system you
have etc. But really so far, there's nothing to get alarmed about when dealing with
There's also a file ( again, Win 95) in the cookie directory called index.dat. It seems
to be an index of all the cookies you accept. I'm still trying to figure out who's looking
at that. And why.
Where it gets sticky is when you get cookies from those banner ads. Say you look in
your cookie file and see "firstname.lastname@example.org". They are there to track your
surfing habits so that they can 'tailor' ads to your preferences - so you might see a
banner ad for say, Honey (that was a Pooh reference, btw) and I might see one
for ... I dunno ... Dell Computers.
From Cookie Central:
connect to the Internet, and jump to www.doubleclick.net Read all about how
they are going to make money giving us cookies we don't know about, collecting data on all
World Wide Web users, and delivering targeted REAL TIME marketing based on our cookies and
our profiles. Pay special attention to the information at:advertising/howads.htm You'll
see that the folks at "doubleclick" make the point that this entire transaction
(between their server and your machine) is transparent to the user. In plain English, that
means you'll never know what hit you. So what's happening is, subscribers to the
doubleclick service put a "cookie request" on their home page for the
When you hit such a site, it requests the cookie and take a look to see who you are, and
any other information in your cookie file. It then sends a request to
"doubleclick" with your ID, requesting all available marketing information about
you. (They're very coy about where this information comes from, but it seems clear that at
least some of it comes from your record of hitting "doubleclick" enabled sites.)
You then receive specially targetted marketing banners from the site.
Personally, it doesn't bother me if anyone knows where I surf. They'd probably be bored
to tears. To tell the truth, I don't even notice the banners anymore. In cases where there
might be delicate situations, I'd say have your set your browser prompt you when someone
wants to leave a cookie. Most of the time, the page will come up just fine without the
cookie, other times, it won't come up. I'd accept cookies from the sites I was on, say CNN
or realhollywood, but not doubleclick or any that don't match the site name. You'll see
them alot in 'free' forums - they have to pay rent somehow ....
As far as specific questions:
Q: Why I was once told I didn't have enough cookies to personalize a page and this
being so where do I get more cookies?
cookie that particular site wanted to put on your computer to personalize their page for
you wasn't able to. If you accept the cookie it wants to give your computer, you shouldn't
get that message. Check your browser's Help file to determine and change how
cookies are handled by your browser.
Q: What about stealing cookies?
know that they can be stolen, but since (unless you fill in a form) there's no personal
info on them
I really don't think you should worry about that.
Q: What if someone using my computer goes to sites that I don't want tracked?
A: When you aren't the one using the computer, set the browser to refuse all
cookies. (Check your browser's Help File to find out how)
For more information