Cookies: Why Does the Internet Want to Store my Data?

Every time you click on a particular website, you will be asked about your preference regarding both necessary and optional ‘cookies’. The majority of users accept the recommended settings in order to get rid of the pop up and find their data faster, but what are ‘cookies’ and why are certain websites so obsessed with them? Read on as we explain everything you need to know…

What are cookies?

The cookies that are found on the internet are vastly different from the chocolate-chip variety. They are text files that contain small amounts of data such as usernames and passwords that help a computer network identify the computer that you are browsing from. When they are exchanged between the PC you are using and the network server, the server will read the information in order to understand what information to provide you with.

The Different Types

Although this sound relatively simple, it is important to remember that there are two different types of cookies: Magic cookies and HTTP cookies. They function in a similar way but have different uses. For instance, Magic cookies are the ones that share information between your PC and the network server without any specific changes whereas HTTP cookies are the modern variety that are built with internet browsing in mind. They manage our online experiences by tracking and saving the information that is created during each ‘session’ so that it can be used to display personalised search results and advertisements.

How are cookies used?

Many users don’t understand cookies and see them as a dangerous thing due to the information that is being stored but without them you would have to log back into a website every time you visit it and rebuild your shopping basket if you accidentally closed the tab. Cookies, specifically the HTTP variety, store your information so that a website will recognise you when you return and know which kind of results will keep you engaged. They also help customised advertising by allowing the search engine to display ads that you have previously shown an interest in.

Almost every single browser will use cookies in order to store information about your search that can then be used in order to personalise your experience. This is why users often find themselves viewing advertisements on social platforms like Facebook for something that they were just searching for on Google. With this said, DuckDuckGo is a search engine that prides itself on privacy and has cookies switched off by default, however the decision to opt for this is at the discretion of the user themselves.