What are Cookies?
You must hear multiple times – “clear your ‘cookies’ and the x problem with your system will get resolved”. Haven’t you? Then you go to the said folder and delete some files. Right!
So, what are these cookies? Cookies are small files, generally encrypted, which are placed in to your system by websites. These files help these websites in things like recognizing you on your return visit, making authentication easier (for example saving your IDs), saving your browsing preferences, logging session details, etc.
Session cookies – certain websites which have functionalities like logging you out after, say 15 minutes, use such cookies for keeping time. Then there are cookies, which track your progress on websites which have workflows.
Authentication cookies – these are quite common. Any website which has a login option will generally write authentication cookies on your system. One of the common tasks of these cookies are to save your login ID. These cookies can also save your passwords (don’t worry, they are encrypted) when you check the ‘Save Password’ option.
These cookies are generally harmless. They do not intervene with your work and silently do their work – help websites perform better. If you feel that certain cookies are clashing with each other or you do not want to the cookies to be present on your system at all, you can simply delete the cookies or deactivate them. But one should keep in mind that there are certain websites, which require cookies to be present to work at all. Hence, do take care of this fact.
What is European Law about Cookies?
Cookies are never harmful, but they are very prone to misuse. These are simple text files, which can’t be executed like any program. These files are just data files which is used (mostly) by websites to give you a better experience. But, these cookies are quite prone to misuse. As these cookies store certain information, if that gets in hands of hackers or unauthorized users, it can reveal that information. Though it is not something which happens daily and is rare, but it can happen if not taken proper care of.
Our take is that though this law has right intentions but is as fluid also. Today, there will be hardly any website which does not work on cookies. Even if the websites start giving an alert / opt-in option to users, most of them will accept. Otherwise, the website will not work as intended.
But nonetheless, given that any website can be accessed from Europe, it will be better and right to have this ‘Cookie consent’ implemented on your website, if you are thinking of taking it global.
FAQs about Cookies
Ques: Are cookie files same as Temporary Internet files?
Ans: No, cookies are not same as temp files. Cookies are files, in which websites store certain information which help them to give you a better experience, save your browsing preferences. Ads use them to see what topics you searched so that they can serve you relevant advertisements. Whereas, the temporary files are cache files, which websites save on your system to serve you repetitive files fast. This is useful when the main website is located on servers not closer to your actual location.
Ques: Are cookies bad for my privacy?
Ans: Again, no. Cookies by themselves are not harmful. They are files with information and cannot perform any action by themselves. Only websites which placed them can use them (as they are encrypted). But, certain cookies store quite sensitive information; if these get in hands of unauthorized user, then it can be harmful / could be misused.
Ques: What safety measures can I take against threats related with cookies?
Ans: The most common and must-do step is to have an Anti-virus installed on your computer. Anti-viruses act as a wall between the unauthorized users and the sensitive information, such as cookies. The other thing which one should do is to regularly keep deleting these cookies. It is quite boring though, but it will ensure that these cookies are not always available on your system. This step, on another hand, will cause you discomfort – i.e. you might have allowed a website to remember your password for comfortably logging on to that website. But, when you delete cookies, the saved password file gets deleted. No harm otherwise.
Hope this article will be useful to you. If you have any queries on the topic, do post that in the comments. We will try and get you the answer to your queries.