So You Think You Can Tech – Cookies

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

#TechTuesday with E-Services

Mmm, Cookies. Who doesn’t love an ooey, gooey chocolate chip cookie?  

Wait, no, not those Cookies, sorry. Today we are going to talk about Cookies in your computer. If you have been anywhere on the internet these days, you have probably encountered something mentioning Cookies and asking your permission to use them. So, let’s do a deep dive into them. 

At its most simple, a Cookie is a tiny piece of information placed on your computer by someone else’s computer. Now let’s talk about that, because it sounds scary. The kinds of things using Cookies though are integral to the internet. Ever go shopping online and the ‘Shopping Cart’ remembers what you put in it? That information is being stored on your machine via a Cookie. Ever go to your email and you don’t have to sign in? Well the login authentication was done via a Cookie. Ever go back to YouTube and they remember where you left off in a video? That was a Cookie too. 

To then answer the question, what is a cookie? One must conclude Cookies are one of the most essential parts of the modern internet. 

Cookies are okay then? 

This depends. Cookies are used both to track your purchases and reduce the number of times you must sign-in to a site. There was a key word there though, track. Along with being helpful Cookies are recording what you are doing on your computer so someone else can have access to that information. Most of the time this access is benign but not always. If you are someone who objects to the way modern companies track you and then use the data they gather to advertise to you, then Cookies are not as friendly as they might have been intended. 

Okay, so why do people tell me to delete them? 

Great question, glad you asked. Although not completely, this notion of deleting Cookies and clearing the cache stems from earlier generations of computers. Being a simple text file, Cookies do not occupy a huge amount of space on your computer. However, what is was a small amount of real estate now was a much larger amount of space in the comparatively smaller hard drives and processors of twenty years ago. Back then, when your computer ran slow it made absolute sense to jettison every little bit of stuff clogging up storage and Cookies were an easy place to cut some metaphorical calories. These days, with as powerful and robust as modern computers are it is less necessary to remove them. Additionally, your computer’s browser automatically deletes Cookies that are too old. 

So, what should I do about Cookies? 

Largely you can ignore them. These days Cookies manage themselves. There options in your browser you can activate to minimize the use of Cookies on your computer. However, if you choose to use the internet without ever use a Cookie your experience will be less robust than intended. 

Then why do all these sites tell me they are using Cookies? 

You can thank the European Union for these notifications. The EU Cookies Directive states that any site owned by EU citizens or directed to EU citizens must inform users of the Cookies they use and gain consent for operation. It can be annoying to be sure, but at least you are being informed. 

Now what? 

Have fun on the internet knowing why the browser keeps mentions Cookies. There is something other than Cookies to be worried about these days, Viruses and Malware. We’ll get to those next time.  

Until then, have fun, find adventure, and stay safe. 

John Carter

John Carter

Husband, Father, Digital Artist, and Teacher, these are but a few of the hats John Carter wears. If he is not at one of our many public libraries hosting a computer class or helping someone in an appointment you can find John working in his yard practicing hügelkultur, hidden away sketching and writing, making a pilgrimage to Disney World, or trying new recipes in the kitchen.

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