What are Tracking Cookies?

Are you aware of tracking cookies? Though they are not exactly harmful like viruses and malware, they are a cause for concern when it comes to your privacy.

Internet Cookies Basics

In order for you to understand what tracking cookies are, it is best to know what cookies are. Internet cookies are small text files that contain information about your visit to a specific website. These cookies are stored on your computer’s hard disk through the web browser that you use. Cookies may contain details such as the date when you last viewed a particular website, or products you recently clicked on or your viewing preferences.

Some cookies may record and store your IP address, the time when you visited a specific website and the browser you used to do so. These may seem as if cookies can be used to get information or files from your computer but cookies are actually harmless since they are simply text files that you can even open and view the content of. The web also relies on these cookies for some aspects such as shopping carts as they would not work properly without cookies.

Understanding Tracking Cookies

Tracking cookies, also called third party cookies, are slightly different than regular cookies. Tracking cookies are placed on your hard disk by a website that is affiliated with the one that you visited. These affiliated websites are often companies that provide advertising for multiple websites.

These websites may use tracking cookies that help them build up a picture of your internet surfing habits. However, they can only track the sites you visit which carry the company’s advertisements. Since not all sites carry these advertisements, tracking cookies will not be able to keep a record of all the sites you visit.

Some people believe that tracking cookies invade their privacy; however, they are not capable of infecting your PC and are not the same as other malicious software. There is no need for you to worry about them as you are bound to get tracking cookies after visiting a number of websites. Nevertheless, you may choose to remove them if you wish.

Disabling Tracking Cookies

If you do not like the idea of tracking cookies stored on your computer, you can prevent them from being downloaded by changing the settings of your browser. The option that disables the saving of cookies is usually found under the privacy tab of your browser’s settings menu. A slider is displayed where you can adjust the setting to the maximum which will completely disable the saving of cookies. Disabling it, however, may cause some problems with your web surfing. It is therefore recommended that you do not completely disable it; rather, you can choose to use a slightly lower setting.

The recommended setting is the one which will allow first party cookies but block third party cookies from being saved in your computer. This is unlikely to cause problems but will still be able to screen the cookies that are being saved on your hard disk.