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"Your data has a social life too"





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Far more people search the Internet for cookie recipes than for information about cookie files. That's probably a good sign for society, but it is worth learning a little about these small files that live inside your computer.

An introduction to cookies

Many of the larger sites on the Web collect information about you. They do this for the best of commercial reasons. They're trying to match the material they show on screen with your personality, so you find it more interesting.

They collect information about you by keeping a log of the pages you visit. This gives them some idea about your personal preferences.

When you visit their site a second or third time, they want to make sure they can refer to the logs from your first visit and update them.

Assuming you haven't formally registered as a visitor to their site, they find it hard to identify you when you return. That's where cookies come in.

A cookie is a small file containing an identity code. Your computer accepts the cookie and stores it. Next time you visit the site it's retrieved and your identity is established.

It's a controversial practice because of the privacy implications, but it's extremely common. Most of the major sites on the Internet, including search engines and portals, send cookies.

Some sites store a lot of information about you within the cookie, but most use it as just an identifier. Usually the big file containing your data is at the site server end. All the cookie does is make sure the correct data file is used. The actual cookie is usually limited in size to 4k, so can't contain much information.

In many cases the data file at the server end doesn't contain your name or personal details, but other times, especially if you use the Internet for shopping, it does. You can read more details about cookie contents here.

Whether you're happy to have these personal profiles stored on various servers around the world is up to you. It does seem a bit "big brother", but the vast majority of sites are very sensitive to your privacy needs and won't release the information to anybody else.


Things you can do with Internet cookies...





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