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'1984' Do You Like Cookies?

'1984' Do You Like Cookies?

What is a cookie? Well if you live in the USA it is a biscuit, if you are in Britain it usually refers to a chocolate chip biscuit. I don't know about you but I love them 🙂

But there is another kind of cookie in relation to the Internet. This is a small file that can be stored on your system (sometimes without you even knowing about it), that can transfer information about you and your system to the web site which placed it on your computer.

PANIC! Well don't worry too much just yet. If you have never heard of cookies before, then you most definitely already have them planted on your system. Using the Internet only once will usually guarantee this.

So how and why? Sites that use cookie technology do so for various reasons, but usually for marketing purposes. When you visit a web site that uses this technology the site makes a request to your Internet browser I.E, Netscape etc, to ask if it will accept a cookie to be placed on your system, and depending on the response the cookie will or will not be placed.

This cookie information file will then gather basic information about you, your computer, type, operating system, web browser your name possibly your e-mail address this can sometimes depend on what information you have submitted to the web site which set the cookie. For instance, if you completed an online form with your personal details then these may be also stored.

More worrying though is the possibility of storing information of the web pages you have viewed. This can then be used to make up a profile of your personal tastes, so that certain advertising could be marketed to you. The cookie will then be read on your return to the web site that set it.

So how can you choose which cookies to accept and which to refuse?

Start with your browser window open and in IE5 go to 'Tools' then 'Internet Options' click the 'Security' tab and on the Internet Globe option click the 'Custom Level' button. Scroll down until you see Cookies and from here you can disable them, a good option to choose is 'Prompt' you can then choose which you wish to accept. Click OK and your options will be stored.

In earlier versions of I.E. these options are to be found under 'View' then 'Internet Options' and under the 'Advanced' tab. For Netscape users cookie options are found under 'Edit' then 'Preferences' and under the advanced option list.

Of course the really paranoid amongst us can also choose to delete their history and cache folders under these options before accepting a cookie so that these may not be read by it.

If you have already accepted cookies you can delete these from your system and start afresh if you wish. On a PC running Windows they are stored on your hard drive under 'Windows' 'Cookies' on other systems just do a search for Cookies.

Open this cookie folder and you may well be amazed by the number of cookies you have already accepted, some you may recognise Microsoft, Yahoo etc but many will be for advertising agencies. If you don't want them then don't hesitate in sending them to your recycle bin.

Sites such as Microsoft insist on you accepting a cookie before you access some resources, also some of the web based e-mail services. You really have to decide for yourself which cookies you want to accept. If you can't access your web based mailbox and you want to use that service then you are going to have to accept that cookie or find another service. Also some online banks may make a request to help track you.

Decide for yourself, your online privacy is your own affair and you now have the knowledge to control at least some of it ;->

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