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Have you ever visited Amazon.co.uk only to find items you’d forgotten in your shopping cart? Returned to John Lewis and found you were already logged in? Have you ever noticed how the stories your favorite new site recommends change as you click on different links? Of course — those sites, like most websites, use cookies to “remember” you and previously viewed content.

These nice touches help us have a better online experience, they also help marketers track you online and enable advertisers to serve target specific products up to you.  Facebook is a great example of this, ever wondered why you keep getting certain adds of goods or services linked with things you have been looking at, it’s like Facebook is watching you – right?  Well, it is!

So:
Cookies make life a little bit nicer, but they’re not exactly good for you – like real-life cookies. And although the term Web cookie didn’t directly derive from the delicious pastries, the analogy holds on any number of levels.

Finding the right balance

How can we manage our Web cookies for the best mix of convenience and privacy? Start with the simplest distinction: first-party versus third-party cookies.

Essentially, a first-party cookie doesn’t venture beyond its own site — when you navigate away from the site, the cookie doesn’t follow you. And a first-party cookie is sufficient to remember your site preferences and keep you permanently logged in, in most cases – we believe these to be helpful and like them!

Third-party cookies are not limited in this way. Third Parties come in differing forms and are most popularly advertisers, maybe placing ads on several sites you visit, they know you were visitors at amazon.co.uk shopping for that new laptop.  Then you leave their website and go to another website, for example, Facebook or a newspaper website and you’ll be offered the exact laptop on the site you are visiting, giving you a nudge to buy.

Or you’ll see what your spouse last shopped for at Amazon. Or your spouse will knock you off your computer to check Facebook and see an ad for what you were just shopping for, right before his birthday.

OK, those are some mildly annoying aspects of third-party cookies — but let’s not forget that the information doesn’t simply go away but accumulates to form a comprehensive picture of you to entities that profit from it and have no responsibility to look out for your well-being.

Another useful distinction is session versus persistent cookies.

Session cookies keep track of the users when, for example, they navigate around a website. Maybe they set a site to display in English and as you click around, other pages on the site will also appear in English. Come back tomorrow and you may have to set that preference again. When you close your browser, session cookies are deleted – they are just for that session

Persistent cookies live on your computer, and they stay there until they expire or you delete them.  The expiry term is usually set by the website and should be listed in their privacy statement.

There’s a lot more to cookies, but the most important thing you need to know is how to control them. You can manage cookies from within your browser’s settings. In this case, controlling means deleting. You can delete Web cookies manually from time to time, through your browser’s History interface, or set your browser to manage cookies automatically.

Removing Cookies & Blocking Third Party Cookies

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