Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on July 7th, 2009

C is for Cookie

As I sat my children down this morning to their daily dose of Sesame Street, the infamous Cookie Monster made a rare appearance by salivating over the Letter O, strictly because it resembled a cookie. The human character had to restrain Cookie Monster from losing control and devouring the scared little letter. This made me realize about how “cookies” on our computers act in very similar ways as the Cookie Monster did with the Letter O. In this analogy, however, the Letter O stands for “Our Privacy”.

A computer cookie is a tiny text file that websites put on your computer when you browse through it. They are used for storing various information, such as your name or the selection you made on an e-commerce site. A website can only read its own cookies, but the information is read back to the website every time you visit, or load another page. That is why websites that you shop on can recommend other items that you may like, or keep track of what items you have already taken interest in to entice you to add to your cart.

The cookies also improve your online user experience. A website that has cookies on your computer can auto-load user names and passwords on their site so all you have to do is hit the sign-in button. Other forms, like credit card information, can be auto-loaded so you don’t have to re-enter all of your personal information on a site that you purchase from often.

This does present a security risk and danger of your privacy. That is why it is recommended that you delete your cookies and cache from your browsers on a regular basis. Erase your cookies before you let someone borrow your computer, or if you take it in to get work done. Every browser has their own unique Cookie Monster, so consult your help files to accurate information on deleting your computer’s cookies.

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