Whether you realize it or not, other businesses and brands are probably tracking your internet activities via internet cookies. Research shows that most websites deploy an average of 10 cookies per session. Some webmasters, however, can deploy hundreds of cookies. Although they sound sweet and savory, cookies often come with privacy risks. To learn more about internet cookies and how they work, keep reading.

What Are Internet Cookies?

Also known as Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) cookies, internet cookies are small files that contain data about your internet browsing activities. They are created by websites and sent to their respective visitors. When you visit a website, it may automatically send you various internet cookies. Your web browser will store these small files until you delete them (or set your web browser to automatically delete them after a specified period).

Are Internet Cookies Malicious?

The good news is that internet cookies, in most cases, aren’t malicious. There’s no way for a website to deploy malware using internet cookies. This is due to the fact that internet cookies consist of text files. Malware is software, so it can’t be embedded into a text file. As a result, internet cookies aren’t malicious.

With that said, there are internet cookies that can replicate themselves. Known as zombie cookies, they are difficult to remove. Even if you delete a zombie cookie, it will essentially replicate itself.

Privacy Concerns for Internet Cookies

Internet cookies are typically used to track visitors’ activities. Websites use them to see which pages their visitors access. Because they are used for tracking purposes, they raise privacy concerns for many internet users. If a website deploys an internet cookie on your web browser, it will see all the pages that you access. That doesn’t necessarily mean the website can steal your data; it only means the website will have information about your browsing activities.

If you want to protect your privacy, you can choose to delete cookies from your web browser. All major web browsers support the deletion of cookies. In Chrome, you can delete cookies by accessing “Settings,” followed by “Privacy and Security.” Clicking the “Cookies and other site data” option will then allow you to delete all cookies stored on your web browser.

In Firefox, you can delete cookies by accessing the “Options” link under the settings menu and choosing “Privacy & Security.” Once deleted, the websites with which the cookies are associated will no longer be able to track your activities — at least not until they deploy another set of cookies.

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