I should begin by explaining what exactly a cookie is, and I’m not on about chocolate chip here unfortunately. Whenever you visit a website that website saves a tiny bit of data onto your computer called a Cookie. Should you return to the site, that data is then accessed by the site so it can see what you did on your previous visit and remember you. This is especially useful in some circumstances, like remembering a shopping cart you were filling but never purchased. It also allows websites and companies to build a profile of you, and helps advertisers give relevant adverts on certain sites. Ever wondered why the adds on Google seem to be perfect for you based on previous browsing? Cookies play a small part in this 🙂
Now although cookies aren’t viruses and cannot contain them, third party cookies can be used to gather information on you that you might not want them to gather. This can lead to breaches in privacy, as they can be used to remember passwords, addresses or even credit card details. These third party cookies are only really found on pages that contain a lot of adds or popups, so it is always good practice to have a good clean up after visiting websites like that, but browsing popular well known sites rarely contain them.
The everyday user potentially could have a lot of cookies saved on their computer. It’s always a good idea to have a good clear out once a week or so (depending on how much you browse) just to remove them. This can avoid invasion of privacy should you have picked up a particularly nasty one.
It is possible to set your browser, be it Chrome, Internet Explorer etc. to automatically block cookies. Although this is extremely safe and will block all of the third party ones, it will also block the ones that are safe and useful, so choose your security options carefully (usually somewhere in the middle is a good bet).
Step by Step time!
Below is an example of how to block cookies; in this case using Internet Explorer:
Within Internet Explorer, click the little Cog in the top right corner (or click tools on the menu bar if not the newest version) and click Internet Options.
When the next window opens, click the Privacy tab along the top.
Sliding the slider on this tab all the way to the top will block all cookies from your computer. However it is probably more advisable to drop one level lower to at least allow verified ones, but also block ones that try to gather data about you, or you may find web browsing to be a little more difficult.
There are plenty of programs you can use to remove these cookies as well as other unwanted files from your computer entirely, and we will be going over a selection of them in an upcoming post, so keep an eye out!
Thanks, Tom M