Mmm…Cookies: How they are Made

Mmm…Cookies: How they are Made

As soon as you click on your internet browser and start going from site to site, you leave a trail of information stored in text files. These are used by the browser to remember you, like usernames, email addresses, history, and everything you download. Without them, some websites you would not be able to use. With them, anyone can track where you just were on the web. Cookies also leave the door open to spyware and malware, something that has plagued the web for a long time. Want to understand them so you will know a little more about how you use the internet? Read more.

Cookies, which used to be called “magic cookies”, are packets of data that are received by a program and sent back unchanged. The idea of cookies really came to be used for the internet from none other than an employee for Netscape. Lou Montulli, in June 1994, designed cookies so they could have a virtual shopping cart. In a year Montulli got a patent for cookies. Internet Explorer began using them in 1995, and no one really knew what they were, and more importantly that cookies were being used and people were unaware of it.

Not until a magazine article came out in 1996 did computer users realize that their privacy was at stake. People paid more attention to them back then, when it was new, today cookies are an old story no one wants to talk about. But we need to, without awareness of it how can we prevent problems in the future?

When you visit this site, cookies are sent to this server to determine whether you can have access or not. An example would be personalizing  a website, or the number of search results on Google. Say you want to load a page and there are no cookies for the website, the server will create a random string of numbers, thinking it is the first time the user is visiting the site. After sending the data back, every time you visit a new site the server records the URL, the date and time, and stores the cookie in a log file. The log is a list of other cookies from websites the user has visited, and this brings up a problem.

browsers should protect user privacy and not allow third-party cookies by default. But most browsers, such as Mozilla Firefox,Internet Explorer and Opera, do allow third-party cookies by default, though they allow users to block them. Some Internet users disable them because they can be used to track a user browsing from one website to another. This tracking is most often done by on-line advertising companies to assist in targeting advertisements. For example: Suppose a user visits www.domain1.com and an advertiser sets a cookie in the user’s browser, and then the user later visits www.domain2.com. If the same company advertises on both sites, the advertiser knows that this particular user who is now viewing www.domain2.com also viewed www.domain1.com in the past and may thus more effectively target the user’s interests or avoid repeating advertisements. The advertiser can then build up profiles on users.

This how all those annoying people who keep pestering you on buying their product or signing you up for money. Now that you know what they are and what to do with them,your life on the internet will run faster, as well as keep tracking hackers from breaking in.

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