Saturday, May 18, 2013

What is a Cookie?

Developed by Lou Montulli in 1994 when he worked for Netscape, cookies help direct what we see on the Internet.  Cookies are being downloaded on your laptop all the time and are collected by the web browsers you use.  Essentially they are individual ID numbers that a website assigns your computer and it collects information on how you used their page.  Some have even better "third party cookies" that collect information from multiple sites that you visit.  Indeed apps that you might add to your webpages often collect this information which is why they can be free as they might sell your information to a group that is trying to reach people like you.  For example I recently visited the Republican and Democratic Virginia party websites and within one day I started getting ads for lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Aneesh Chopra who the microdata thought I might like to select in our upcoming primary (as not surprisingly he was the tech czar for my former governor Tim Kaine and Barack Obama).  The good is that you see what you want to see (ads for your needs) and the bad is that you may not go beyond your own needs (check out this post on the Filter Bubble).  Of course you can go here if you want to delete all of your cookies, but that will also mean when you start to type in a webpage it will not finish out for you as it will know know that you were there before.  

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