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"To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life."
- James Thurber

Internet/Cyber Cookies

Date Published: Oct 13, 2022

Person using laptop and eating a cookie

You have probably seen the alerts for cookies pop up when you visit websites, sometimes asking you to accept all cookies. Unfortunately this is not a company offering to send you free edible cookies, which would be awesome. Instead the cookies they are referring to are cyber-cookies, which are more confusing and less exciting than an actual cookie.

When you come across these alerts or disclaimers you may find yourself wondering what to do. Should I accept all cookies for the site? Should I decline the cookies if given the option? Should I avoid the site entirely? Or just click the “x” on the alert box to disregard it?

These are all good questions to ask and if you come across something you are unsure about it is good to ask questions. So to help you answer these questions keep reading to learn about the not so delicious world of cyber cookies.

What Are They?

As we mentioned, the type of cookies you might hear about when browsing the web are cyber or HTTP cookies. These are small text files stored on your browser, such as Google Chrome, Safari, or Firefox, from the websites you visit. Websites use these files to track your internet activity, including other websites you visit and items on websites you click on.

Shopping websites will use cookies to remember such things as what items you have clicked or put into your online shopping cart. A news site such as Yahoo might use cookies to recall what stories you have read in the past, so they can better tailor your news feed to fit your interests. Sometimes websites may use cookies to store passwords and usernames to autofill when you go to log in, to save you time and effort of typing in your login credentials.

At face value cookies sound like some pretty intrusive aspects of the cyber world for they may seem like little spies to track your activity as you browse the web. While they do track your activity, they don’t always do so in a negative way and can actually improve your internet experience. There are cookies to watch out for though.

Good Cookies

Approving cookies for websites like shopping websites or weather websites can have a positive impact on your user experience. For example, a weather website may use cookies so that when you go on the website repeatedly the local forecast displays without you having to enter in any information such as a zip code or city name.

A shopping website will use cookies to save items you have placed in your shopping cart, as well as, put products you are more likely to buy on the forefront. Because they are able to personalize what you see due to your activity, there will be less navigation work for you.

Another cookie that brings an advantage is when you are on a trusted website and the only way to access it is by consenting to cookies. So if you are visiting a website that requires cookies, and it is a trusted website, accepting the cookies is the way to go, but only if you feel safe doing so. If you have any doubt, contact the website customer support to make sure you won’t be at risk for anything dangerous, like a virus.

Normally, cookies cannot feed your computer viruses or malware because the data in the cookie does not change when it goes from its source to your computer. So if you are on a trusted and secure website that you are likely to use again, allowing cookies for this site may be of a benefit to you.

Not So Tasty Cookies

For the most part, cookies are not harmful. However, there are some you will want to keep an eye out for or want to avoid all together. The key here is to pay attention to the cookie alert that comes up on websites and if a website is secure or not.

One cookie to avoid is called a third-party cookie, and these are ones that are best to decline. If you do not decline third party cookies from a website, that website can then sell your browsing data to third parties. This would include sharing personal information with third parties you had no intention of sharing information with. You can also disable third-party cookies using your browser settings.

Another good indicator not to allow cookies is if you are on a website you will not visit very frequently. There is no reason to allow cookies since you won’t be visiting very often. Think of it as buying a membership card to a store you go to once a year, it could end up costing you more in the long run.

Unencrypted websites are another batch of cookies you will want to not get your hands on. When you go onto a website, in the URL field at the top of your browser displaying the website link look for a “lock” icon next to the website address. If you are on a website and don’t see this lock icon, it is best to not allow cookies. If a website is without this lock icon, it is not encrypted. This means there is no security to protect your data, leaving you more vulnerable to things like identity theft.

If you are on a website where you will be entering private information like your Social Security Number, it is best to decline cookies for this website to give you a security boost. That way you avoid any chance of personal data falling into the wrong hands through cookies. Along with this, if you have antivirus software on your computer, that may flag suspicious cookies. If so, do not accept those flagged cookies and delete them if you already have them.

Emptying the Cookie Jar

If you notice your browser of choice becoming slow overtime as you accept cookies, one thing you can do to potentially speed it up is to clear your cookies. How you do this depends on your browser, but it is typically under the Privacy section in your browser settings menu.

Clearing cookies is also beneficial if you have accepted cookies that put a bad taste in your mouth. This gives you an empty box, where you can ensure you only get the cookies you want or if you decide to no longer allow cookies. Cookies take up disk space on your computer. So, clearing them every once in a while or when your computer suggests you to is good practice.

Food for Thought

Whether you accept or deny, enable or disable cookies, is ultimately up to you and how comfortable you feel doing so. If you are concerned about your privacy and would prefer to be incognito, then disabling cookies is right for you.

If you don’t care too much about websites tracking your activity, and want to earn that better website user experience cookies can deliver to you, then they are for you. Just make sure you stay careful and keep an eye out for the red flags we listed above.

If you ever need any assistance or have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out us at 989-249-8200 or stop by one of our branches today! Internet safety is something we take seriously, so your concerns matter to us.