To improve user experience, websites make use of “cookies”. These are nothing but small text files that web server places on your web browser. The main objective of cookies is to identify users so that websites can craft customized web pages and save the log in information.  Cookies also evaluate site usage and help enhance content and offerings on websites. Websites come to know which content is important for you and which are not.

It is important for you to keep in mind that cookies by themselves do not transmit all of your sensitive information including your email address unless you choose to do so by registering in the website. By default, the act of storing and transmitting cookies is concealed from you.

However, you can control which cookies you want to accept by changing your settings. You can do so:

  • By configuring your browser to accept all cookies or alert you every time a cookie is presented.
  • By setting your browser option not to receive any cookies
  • By deleting existing cookies on your browser. This you can do so by opening the browser, clicking on “tools’, and checking boxes to clear cookies and other site data including browsing history.

There are 2 types of cookies:

  • Session cookie – It is also named transient cookie as it is removed when you close your browser. Session cookie stores  the session information and does not identify the user
  • Persistent cookie – It is a permanent cookie or a stored cookie saved with expiration dates. The objective of this cookie is to collect information about the user including web surfing behavior and user preferences.

Here are a few pieces of information you should know

  • Cookies are domain specific. Another domain cannot read or write cookie created by the originator domain.
  • Sometimes web hosts disable cookies because of privacy and security considerations.
  • A single cookie contains very little information and is light in size limited to 4 kb
  • Information contained on cookies is simple and limited. They cannot store multifarious information. They do not require server resources.
  • Many browsers have set limits to the number of cookies that can be stored by a single domain – typically to not more than 20 cookies.
  • On online shopping sites, cookies can automatically fill your address and email information but not your credit card information.
  • Browsers are generally setup to accept cookies by default because most websites do not allow their portals to be accessed unless cookies are enabled.

Importance of cookies to serve up tailored content

  • Cookies have the ability to deliver personalized content that is geared towards user preferences.
  • As an example, retail websites can provide users with related products that users search.
  • Many companies agglomerate data from cookies so that they can run promotional campaigns aimed at a target audience, demographics, or a specific market segment.