What is a cookie?
A cookie is a harmless text file that is saved in your browser when you visit virtually any web site. The purpose of a cookie is for the website to be able to remember your preferences regarding it the next time you visit it. In a nutshell, cookies customize your web experience. Although many people may not know it, cookies have been being used for 20 years, when the first World Wide Web browsers appeared.
What IS NOT a cookie?
A cookie is not a virus, neither is it a trojan, or a worm, nor spam, or spyware, and it does not generate pop-up windows.
What sort of information does a cookie store?
Cookies do not store sensitive information about the website user, such as credit card or bank account data, photographs, ID or social security number, personal information, etc. The data saved by these is exclusively one of technical character, such as the site’s display preferences, content personalization, etc.
The server does not relate to you as a person but to your web browser. In fact, if you regularly browse through Internet Explorer, for instance, and then try to enter the same site through a different browser, like Firefox or Google Chrome, you will realize that the site will not be able to identify you as user with your saved preferences. That is because the site had its cookies saved in the browser that you regularly used, but not in the new one.
What type of cookies are there?
- Technical cookies: these are the most elementary ones and they allow, amongst other things, to figure out whether it is a person or an application navigating it, when it is an anonymous user or a registered one, etc., basic tasks for the normal running of any dynamic site.
- Analysis cookies: these gather information about how you browse through the website, for example, the most visited sections, most consulted products, navigation time frame, language preference, etc.
- Publicity cookies: these show specific publicity according to your navigation, like country of origin, language, etc.
What are third-party and the first-party cookies?
First-party cookies are those generated by the website you are visiting, whereas third party cookies are generated by external service providers such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.
What happens if I turn off cookies?
In order for you to understand the full extent of the effect that turning off cookies can have, we provide here some concrete examples of what happens when you do it:
- You will not be able to share contents from the site you are visiting in Facebook, Twitter or any other social networking site.
- The website will not be able to adapt its contents to your personal preferences like it usually happens with online stores.
- You will not be able to access the site’s personal area, generally denominated “My account”, “My Profile”, “My favourites”, etc.
- It will be impossible for you to perform online purchases if you do not accept storage of cookies from the online store sites.
- It will not be possible to personalize your geographical preferences like time zone, currency or language.
- The website will not be able to perform web analytics about web traffic and visitors volume, which will make it difficult for the site to stay up to date and remain a competitive web.
- You will not be able to write on the blog, nor to upload photographs, publish comments or rate contents. Neither will the web be able to detect whether you are a person or an automated app publishing spam.
- Any publicity specifically run by location will not be shown, which will reduce some of the web’s incomes.
Can cookies be deleted?
Yes, cookies can not only be deleted but also blocked in general or in particular for a specific domain.
To delete a website’s cookies you must go to your browser’s configuration and from there search the cookies related to the domain in question and proceed to erase them.
Cookies configuration path for most frequently used web browsers.
Most browsers allow you to refuse to accept cookies and to delete cookies. The methods for doing so vary from browser to browser, and from version to version. You can however obtain up-to-date information about blocking and deleting cookies via these links:
(a) https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/95647?hl=en (Chrome);
(b) https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/enable-and-disable-cookies-website-preferences (Firefox);
(c) http://www.opera.com/help/tutorials/security/cookies/ (Opera);
(d) https://support.microsoft.com/en-gb/help/17442/windows-internet-explorer-delete-manage-cookies (Internet Explorer);
(e) https://support.apple.com/kb/PH21411 (Safari); and
(f) https://privacy.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-10-microsoft-edge-and-privacy (Edge).
Blocking all cookies will have a negative impact upon the usability of many websites.