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2 minute tech: Cookies

Sven Krumrey

You too have cookies! Don't panic. Learn more about the role cookies play on your machine here.

For roughly 20 years, cookies have been an integral part of Internet communication making surfing the web more comfortable and the hair of privacy group members slightly stand on end. That is because cookies are a two-edged sword. What they do you ask? Cookies remember data input. Whenever you visit a page that requires you to input a user name and password, a cookie will remember your input. They are small text files or SQL databases that contain information such as this. These small files are kept by your browser in so-called cookie caches, temporary storage spaces.

Still the best cookies
Good cookies, bad cookies

Cookies relieve you from manually having to put in your credentials every time and preserve your settings when you revisit a page. Sounds good? In principle, it is, and Ashampoo also uses cookies, e.g. to make it easier for users to access their Ashampoo accounts. But, as always (on the Internet), there's also a dark side. Cookies can be used to track your web surfing habits. And I'm not just talking about the NSA (that most certainly is not the only intelligence agency using cookies for user identification) but also shady companies that sell user profiles. These groups employ so-called tracking cookies that log a lot more than just your page settings on the Internet.

The dark side

Tracking cookies help create highly refined user profiles by logging your entire web surfing behavior, your browsing history, every password, every purchase and every online search. That is when an original useful technology becomes an imminent threat to your privacy. Your data is highly valuable to marketing companies! It's a lot easier to target users with specific ads when their habits are well known. If you take into account that every PC has stored 30 cookies on average and that passwords can pose a huge risks in the wrong hands, the issue becomes critical.

A sad sight
Surfing without cookies

Can you make do entirely without cookies? If convenience is secondary to you, you can at least surf the web this way. It gets more difficult when you're trying to log into a site or make purchases. Your painstakingly filled shopping cart may suddenly be forgotten, member areas become off limits and all individual settings are lost as soon as you leave a page. And even the most strong-willed may become enervated by constant reminders to enable cookies given by virtually every web site that uses them. Certainly not a fun web surfing experience.

You really don't want to go without them - but without risk

Cookies are a necessary evil of today's web browsing, yet you should not accept all of them blindly or leave them on your system indefinitely. You can either muddle through the different settings of your web browsers or rely on Ashampoo WinOptimizer to do it for you. Internet Cleaner (part of 1-Click Optimizer) not only tracks down cookies across your system but will also keep those that are vital to your web surfing experience and those you trust. Safe cookies will be spared while all others are deleted without mercy. This helps you tell friend from foe within seconds and put an end to unnecessary data logging.

Author's note:

The tiny column „2 minute tech“ came into being because many readers asked for it. And to the experts among us that knew everything already: The next articles will hold something new for you too.

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