What is a cookie?
A cookie is a harmless text file stored in your browser when you visit almost any web page. The cookie is used to enable the website to remember your visit when you browse the same page again. Although most people are unaware of it, cookies have been in use for twenty years now, since the first browsers appeared on the World Wide Web.
What is a cookie not?
It is not a virus, Trojan horse, worm, spam or spyware, nor does it open pop-up windows.
What information does a cookie store?
Cookies do not typically store your private information, like credit card or banking information, photographs, your ID or personal information, etc. The stored data is
mostly technical, personal preferences, content customisation, etc.
The web server doesn’t associate this to you as a person but to your web browser. In fact, if you typically use Internet Explorer as your browser and then visit the same websites with Firefox or Chrome, you will see that the websites do not realise you are the same person, because they are actually linked to your browser, not to you as a person.
What types of cookies are there?
- Technical cookies: These are the most basic ones. Among other things, they tell whether a person or an automated application is using the browser or whether the user is anonymous or registered. This includes the basic tasks needed for the functionality of any dynamic website.
- Analytics cookies: These collect information on the type of browsing that you are doing, the most visited sections, the browsed products, usage time periods, language, etc.
- Advertising cookies: These serve to personalise ads to users, country of origin, language, etc.
What are first and third party cookies?
First party cookies are generated by the website you are visiting, while third party cookies are generated by external services or providers like Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.
What happens if i disable cookies?
To understand the effect that disabling cookies can have, we offer some examples:
- You will not be able to share content from that website on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media.
- The website will not be able to adapt content to your personal preferences as usually occurs in online stores.
- You will not have access to the personal area of that website, for example, My Account, o My Profile or My Cart.
- Online stores: It will be impossible for you to purchase online. Your purchases will have to be by telephone or you will have to visit the physical store if there is one.
- It will not be possible to customise your geographic preferences, such as time zone, currency or language.
- The website will not be able to perform web analytics on visitors and web traffic, which will make it hard for the site to stay competitive.
- You will not be able to write on the blog, upload pictures, post comments, like or rate content. The site will also be unable to tell whether you are a person or an automated application posting spam.
- Targeted advertising will not be possible, which will reduce the site’s ad revenue.
Can cookies be cleared?
Yes. Not just cleared, but also blocked, altogether or for a specific web domain.
To clear the cookies of a website, go to your browser’s settings where you will be able to search for any cookies linked to the domain of your choosing and then clear them.
Cookie settings for the most popular web browsers
Here are the steps to access a particular set of cookies on a Chrome browser. Note: the steps may vary based on browser version:
- Go to Settings or Preferences through the File menu or by clicking on the icon in the upper right hand corner.
- You will see several options. Click on Advanced Settings.
- Go to Privacy, Content settings.
- Select All cookies and site data.
- You will see a list of all cookies in order of domain. In order to make your search easier, type in the site’s address partially or totally in the Search cookies box.
- By applying this filter, you will see one or several lines with the cookies of the site you requested. Now you must simply select them and click on the X to clear them.
To access cookies settings on an Internet Explorer browser, follow these steps (they may vary based on browser version):
- Go to Tools, Internet options.
- Click on Privacy.
- Adjust the slider to your preferred privacy level.
To access cookie settings from a Firefox browser, follow these steps (they may vary based on browser version):
- Go to Options or Preferences depending on your operating system.
- Click on Privacy.
- In History choose Use custom history settings.
- You will now see the option Accept cookies, which you can enable or disable as you see fit.
To access cookie settings on a Safari OSX browser follow these steps (they may vary based on browser version):
- Go to Preferences, then Privacy.
- Here you will see the option Block cookies to select the type of blocking you want to use.
To access cookie settings on Safari iOS browsers, follow these steps (they may vary based on browser version):
- Go to Settings, then Safari.
- Go to Privacy and Security, you will see the option Block cookies to select the type of blocking you want to use.
To access cookie settings on Android device browsers, follow these steps (they may vary based on browser version):
- Start up the browser and press the Menu key, then Settings.
- Go to Security and Privacy, and you will see the option Enable cookies to check or uncheck the box.
To access cookie settings on Windows Phone devices, follow these steps (they may vary based on browser version):
- Open Internet Explorer, then More, then Settings.
- You may now check or uncheck the box Allow cookies.