We’re all familiar with online cookies, but what are they? When you’re browsing sites, you often have to agree to at least a few “necessary” cookies, but are they necessary? Web browsers must have support for at least 300 cookies, but some can have many more running at any one time.
Cookies do have an impact on your privacy. It’s recommended that you block at least some of them if you want to improve your browsing privacy.
You can delete cookies at any time, but what does deleting cookies do? Will it inhibit your browsing experience?
We’ve got your answers. Read on and find out what cookies do and how you can enhance your web privacy today!
What Are Cookies?
Cookies are small pieces of data left on your browser by sites that you visit. These can store login data and items added to your shopping cart, for example.
However, they can also record your browsing. For example, tracking cookies can store information about which pages you visited.
Advertisers often use tracking cookies to target ads at you.
Are Cookies Good or Bad?
Cookies are not necessarily bad technology. They can make your life easier by remembering your shopping cart or personal info, for example.
However, they can pose a privacy risk. Cookies can be read by intermediaries. There is also the problem with having something log your browsing history, which isn’t exactly good infosec.
In addition to the privacy concerns, hackers can also hijack your browsing session using your cookies. This can give them significant help in stealing from you.
Why Are They Called Cookies?
As an aside, have you ever wondered why people call them cookies? The term comes from the old Unix term “magic cookie,” which describes data sent between programs.
What Does Deleting Cookies Do?
You can delete your cookies at any time, but what does deleting cookies do? Regularly deleting your cookies may make your browsing experience a little less fluid.
For example, websites will no longer remember you, prompting you to log in each time you visit. Amazon won’t be able to remember what you had in your basket.
You may find the increase in privacy to be worth it.
You will need to delete cookies after every web session unless you follow some other steps that we’ll cover later.
To delete your cookies and clear your cache on Windows’ most popular browser, Chrome, follow these steps:
- Go to Settings
- Scroll down and click on Advanced at the bottom of the page
- Under Privacy and Security click on Clear Browsing Data
- Select the data you’d like to delete and the time range you’d like to delete
- Click Clear Data
You can find more data that you may wish to delete under the Advanced tab at the top of the Clear Browsing Data window.
You will need to follow other steps to delete cookies and clear cache on Mac and Linux.
Best Privacy Practices for Cookies
Cookies do record your data. How much of this you are comfortable with will vary from person to person. However, it is possible to still have a full browsing experience while retaining more of your privacy.
The main problem with cookies for privacy are third-party cookies. The domains that place these on your PC aren’t the sites you visit. They’re typically advertisers.
These track your browsing and use them to target ads. Getting rid of these will not inhibit your browsing whatsoever.
To block third-party cookies in Chrome, follow these steps:
- Open up Settings
- Scroll down and open Advanced settings
- Open Site Settings
- Click on Cookies and Site Data
- Enable “Block third-party cookies”
If you’d like an additional layer of privacy while using Chrome, you can also request that sites don’t track you. To do this, under Advanced, enable “send a ‘do not track’ request with your browsing traffic.”
Additional Privacy Steps
Cookies can be a serious threat to your browsing privacy. If you would like to stay even more secure, we would recommend installing a few different utilities.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation made Privacy Badger to help you protect your identity.
This tool will block any cookies that do not respect your “do not track” request. It also works well as an adblocker.
It is free, open-source, and maintains a balanced approach between privacy and usability. It is available on Chrome, Opera, and Firefox.
Cookies aren’t the only means of tracking your web browsing. Certain websites use third-party content libraries to deliver their content. This means that these third parties can also track your browsing.
Decentraleyes restricts it so that your browser only contacts these libraries to see if there is a newer version of the content available. If these connections were blocked completely, the internet would not be usable, so it strikes a good balance.
Many websites today use the more secure HTTPS protocol for their connections. However, some still use the old HTTP protocol.
HTTPS everywhere forces every site to use HTTPS and makes your browsing more secure.
If you’ve had enough of ads, we’d recommend using Ublock Origin. This lightweight adblocker is flexible and allows you to set your own rules regarding content.
If you’re a novice, you’ll find its basic settings to be more than adequate.
Final Thoughts on Cookies and Privacy
Cookies can be difficult to understand if you aren’t familiar with technical terms. We hope that we’ve answered your questions about cookies, particularly “what does deleting cookies do.”
If you follow the steps we’ve outlined above and installed the selected tools, you’ll have more privacy online. While it’s impossible to block all cookies and still use the internet, these tips strike a great balance between privacy and usability.
Want to check out more great tech articles? Check out the technology section of our blog!