Lesson #7 - Cookies (Not
the Chocolate Chip Kind)
Every time you visit a web site, you give that
site a little gift. It's in the form of a cookie, which is a small piece of
electronic information almost every web page collects. These cookies are used to
collect data about web surfers, their habits, and stored information about them.
Most of the time this information is kept
pretty safe. For example, all information taken my the web host this site uses is
kept private. I can review the information myself if I wish, but this information is
never sold or published. Unfortunately, not all web sites follow this policy.
What Are Cookies
The best article I have found on what a cookie
is and how it is used is at Cookie Central, located here - http://www.cookiecentral.com/cm002.htm.
Basically, a cookie is used to store
information on your computer that a web site can use to personalize it's services.
An example is a web-based mail server that offers the ability to save your password.
The password is stored in a cookie file that is on your computer, and every time you
access that web site the cookie file is read.
Another example is a site like iWon.com's
personalized task bar. You can relocate any piece of the task bar and the content on
the web site to your needs, and every time you return to the site it restores those
settings. Without cookies, the web site would return to it's default state.
The Dark Side of Cookies
Since the announcement that Doubleclick.net
had been illegally collecting and selling information taken from cookie files, the true
ability of a hack or web server owner to use cookie information had never truly been
explored. As much as I would like to write my feelings about what the dark side of
cookies can be, I would prefer to send you to a place that does a much better job.
Please click the following link to CookieCentral.com to get an understanding of what
cookies are capable of.
What can you do to protect yourself?
The easiest method is to turn off
cookies. (Look in the options area of your web browser.) Unfortunately, many
newer web sites will not allow you to enter without cookies enabled. A much easier
method is a cookie manager.
A cookie manager is a program that examines
stored cookie files and deletes them as needed. It allows you a variety of functions
that can allow you to control the cookies that are stored on your computers. Please
check at the following URL for a list of cookie managers - http://www.cookiecentral.com/files.htm