Curious About Online Tracking? Learn About Cookies.
You’ve probably heard about cookies and online tracking. Perhaps you’ve been wondering how they work, but you’re not sure where to start. OnGuardOnline.gov has the info you need to understand what cookies are, what they do, and how you can control them.
A cookie is information saved by your web browser when you visit a site. Cookies can be used to collect, store and share bits of information about your online activities. Cookies also can be used to customize your browsing experience, or to deliver ads targeted to you and your interests.
There are different types of cookies. First-party cookies are placed by a site when you visit it. They can make your experience on the web more efficient. For example, they help sites remember:
- items in your shopping cart
- your log-in name
- your preferences, like always showing the weather in your home town
- your high game scores
Third-party cookies are placed by someone other than the site you’re visiting. They’re often placed by advertising networks, and can be used to deliver ads tailored to your interests. For example, if you read an online article about running, an ad network could use a cookie to note your interest in running and add it to a profile. Later, you may see coupons to save money on running shoes.
Many browsers let you control what cookies can be placed on your computer and delete cookies you don’t want. Keep in mind that if you disable cookies entirely, you may limit your browsing experience. Most browsers allow you to block third-party cookies without also disabling first-party cookies.
For more details about cookies, including information about private browsing and “Do Not Track,” read our article, Cookies: Leaving a Trail on the Web.