Few things stir up heated and spirited debates more than Web cookies. Anti-spyware sites like to hammer cookies because, well because, it gives them something to hammer on. But, are cookies really in the same league with spyware, adware, malware and hijackers? Hardly. They don’t contain any mechanism to download software on your computer, they don’t contain hidden apparatus to spawn popups on your computer, and they don’t infect. modify, change, or rewrite your registry. Simply put: they don’t have the capacity to “run” (execute). So regardless of what the gurus of the Web tell you, cookies are not something you should fret over. If you want to worry about cookies, worry about whether to make chocolate chip or sugar cookies!
- Cookies are text files and cannot “run” (execute) and therefore don’t deserve the appellation “ware”. No matter what.
- Cookies cannot normally track you from site to site. They can only normally track your movements within a site or group of sites.
- Cookies are limited in the information that they give.
- Cookies are ubiquitous. Cookies allow sites like MSN/YAHOO/GMAIL and other customizable portals or Start Pages to save your preferences.
- Cookies, unlike Spyware and Adware are easily removed without using any special program. You can simply delete them.
- Many Spyware removal programs flag “tracking cookies’. Well, if you were a spyware removal company you’d want to detect as many “things” as you could. After all you’d want whoever is using your software to think you’re getting some bang for their buck. And one thing’s for sure: while computers might not always have spyware on them, they’ll always have some cookies on them. Ding! Given that then the anti-spyware program will always detect something – and you’ll always think it’s working!
- The suffix “ware” as in spyware, freeware, shareware, adware, malware indicates a program. A cookie is a text file only and not a program. It does not run or “execute”.
- Cookies do not consume your computer’s system resources nor use your computer’s Internet connection’s bandwidth like adware, hijackers, spyware and malware do.
Why are cookies used?
- To prevent you from seeing the same advertisement twice by acknowledging you’re a returning visitor and not a new visitor.
- To allow webmasters to count the number of visitors to their site and to see which pages are the most popular. You cannot run a business unless you know your customers’ preferences. Can you imagine running a restaurant and not keeping track of what dinners sell and which don’t? You might track the biggest selling meals but that does not mean you have any idea who the people are. This is not “Spying”.
- To allow for personalized settings like MSN and Yahoo “start pages” (colors, location, etc.).
What exactly is a cookie?
A cookie is a piece of information sent by a Web server to a user’s browser. Cookies may include information such as login or registration identification, user preferences, online “shopping cart” information, etc. The browser saves the information, and sends it back to the Web server whenever the browser returns to the Web site. The Web server may use the cookie to customize the display it sends to the user, or it may keep track of the different pages within the site that the user accesses for internal use such as determining which pages are popular and which pages are not.
There is no personal information being exchanged between the browser and your computer and the Web site which dropped the cookie. The only piece of identification that could be traced to you is the IP address, but this is not stored by the cookie for use on any other site but the one you’re visiting. This is in contrast to spyware/adware which tracks your browsing habits across all sites, stores your IP address and may attach a user identification number to your IP address for future reference. Browsers may be configured to alert the user when a cookie is being sent, or to refuse to accept cookies. If you set your browser to disallow cookies you may not be able to access certain sites. Cookies, unlike spyware/adware, do not require a special program to remove them. In fact they don’t require any program at all to remove them. You can simply delete them or use your browser’s “Delete Cookies” feature to remove them.