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Cookie Quiz

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Cookie Quiz

As a web developer I hear a lot of misconceptions about cookies. Now don't get hungry, I'm not taking about the cookies you eat. I'm taking about the kind you get from the web! Below I answer 5 frequently asked questions about cookies. The answers may surprise you.

1. Cookies can contain spyware or viruses that can ruin my computer!

False - A cookie is text data only and can't be executed as a program. Therefore, it is not possible for a cookie to contain malware.

2. A cookie could be used as an invasion on my privacy.

True - The biggest debate about cookies centers around privacy issues. It is possible for the information stored in your cookies to get in the hands of a third party. It is also possible to track a user's browsing history through cookies. Do keep in mind though that the kind of information usually stored in a cookie is not the kind of information one spends a lot of time protecting.

3. If I disable my cookies, I may not be able to use my favorite websites.

True - Some websites do require that cookies be enabled to work properly. Other websites won't be able to save your user settings making it impossible to personalize your experience.

4. Cookies will fill up my hard drive and cause my computer to run slowly.

False - As we learned in the first statement cookies are simply a line of text and they do not take up a lot of space. Also, most browsers will limit the amount of cookies that are stored and will automatically delete the least used cookies to make room for new ones.

5. I can get a cookie from a website I've never been to.

True - This is called a third-party cookie. It happens when you go to a web page that contains images or content from another website. It happens primarily in advertisements. Website owners will put a snippet of code on their site that requests an ad from the advertiser's site. While this information is being exchanged, the advertiser may send you a cookie. If you do not wish to recieve this type of cookie you can change the settings in your web browser, see "To Change Your Cookie Settings" below.

So now that you have taken the quiz let's start from the beginning and go over what a cookie is. When we are talking about computers, a "cookie" refers to a piece of text data that is sent to your web browser from a web server. This information is saved to your computer, so when you visit the web page again, the cookie can be sent back to the web server. Typically cookies are used for the following reasons:
1) To store user information: For example, each time you go to it remembers who you are and what books you like to read. It does this with cookies.
2) E-commerce: Many e-commerce sites will store your shopping cart selections in a cookie.
3) To remember login information: If you ask a web site to remember your user name, it will most likely do so with a cookie.

At priority Learning we use a form of cookie called a "session." Instead of downloading the text information to your hard drive, the text information is saved to your web browser. To protect this information we use a Security Socket Layer to prevent someone else from intercepting the information stored in the session.

If you are concerned about how cookies will affect your privacy, you do have options. You can either turn your cookies off or you can set your browser to alert you when a cookie is going to be downloaded. If you decide to turn your cookies off, note that doing this will definitely take away many of the conveniences you have become accustomed to on the web.

To Change Your Cookie Settings (Internet Explorer)...

-Go to Tools > Internet Options
-Click on the Privacy tab
-Click the Advanced button
-Check Override Automatic Cookie Handling
-Change your settings as desired, then click OK

To Delete Cookies (Internet Explorer)...

-Go to Tools > Internet Options
-Under Browsing History click Delete...
-Under Cookies click Delete Cookies

For more information about cookies visit these websites:

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Milly Welsh
Zebralove Web Solutions

Milly Welsh is the Priority Learning webmaster and Owner/Operator of Zebralove Web Solutions, a web development company located in southern Maine.
Zebralove Web Solutions



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