Cookies are small files that are saved in your browser when you visit a website. Some cookies only stay on your computer for a short time. They will be deleted as soon as you close the page. Other cookies come to stay. Sometimes even for years. Find out everything you need to know about cookies and their function.
At a glance
- Cookies are stored on your computer when you visit a website.
- There are cookies that are deleted as soon as you end a session. Other cookies remain permanent.
- Some cookies can stay on your computer for years and analyze your user behavior.
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Go to website, get cookies
Web pages are stored on a web server. To view a website from your computer, you need a browser such as Firefox, Edge, Chrome, Safari or Opera. If you go to a website in the browser of your choice – for example, type in www.algo-was.de – then your computer asks the web server for the files that are necessary for displaying this page. The web server provides the requested information and the website is displayed in your browser window.
Most of the time, the web server also provides a few more files that are stored in your browser or program folder. These are the so-called cookies. When you visit a website, you will be asked which cookies you want to allow. But more on that later.
This is a cookie
A cookie is a small file. Various information is stored in this file . For example, a randomly generated number with which your computer can be recognized. Or information about your language preferences, page settings, content in your shopping cart or saved passwords . If you allow it, a cookie may also save your name, address or telephone number.
Functions of cookies
Cookies make a lot of things on the Internet easier and more convenient for you. Because a website remembers different points, you don’t have to enter them over and over again. For example, you can put various products in the shopping cart at a large online shop. Even if you go to different sub-pages of the shop or maybe even call up a different page in between, the cookie remembers what is in your shopping cart. This way you can check out very comfortably at the end, maybe even without having to enter your address manually during the payment process.
However, some cookies not only save user-optimized information that makes surfing more convenient for you. Some cookies are primarily used by companies and advertisers to get a better picture of you. So-called tracking cookies track you and your user behavior over a long period of time . They analyze what you do on the net, which websites you visit and what you click on there. Among other things, they ensure that you always get the right advertising tailored to your interests . That means: if you want to spend less money, you should delete your cookies every now and then.
Session cookies = good cookies
The discussion about cookies is in full swing. Are they good or bad? Evil or Helpful? The answer to these questions cannot be answered with a clear “yes” or “no”. As is so often the case in life, things are more gray than black or white. Because one thing is certain: Without certain cookies, the use of the Internet in the form we know it would not be possible at all. Online shopping,
nline banking and the like would be problematic or even impossible without cookies. So the question is less whether we want to allow cookies. But rather what. So-called session cookies are generally unproblematic. They are deleted as soon as you close a website. Products in your shopping cart or log-in data are often saved in the form of session cookies.
Cookies have a built-in expiration date. Session cookies disappear as soon as you end your session. Other cookies stay longer. Some even for years. The so-called permanent or permanent cookies have come under heavy criticism in recent years. Not all of them are as bad as their reputation. Some persistent cookies enable you to save passwords or address data and not have to re-enter them over and over again. Or they remember which consents were given when the cookie was requested. Or they ensure that your shopping cart still contains the products you have selected when you return to a shop page after three days. This is convenient for you as a user.
But: The most comfortable is not always the safest option. Any storage of personal data such as log-in data is associated with a certain security risk. Because everything that is stored anywhere can potentially be read by unauthorized persons.
Tracking cookies = bad cookies
Among the cookies that remain permanently on your computer, there is another group, the so-called tracking cookies . They are often not placed on your computer by the website itself, but by third-party advertising companies. But how do these cookies get onto your computer?
When you visit a website, you may also download a banner ad. This advertising banner then places a so-called third-party cookie on your computer. Third-party cookies are cookies from companies that you actually have nothing to do with. For example, the company that is responsible for placing and evaluating advertising on the website you are currently visiting. This cookie accompanies and possibly follows you for years, evaluates your user behavior and forwards all this information to the advertising company . This creates – in anonymized form – a comprehensive user profile about you in order to effectively predict you and your click and purchase behavior.
And especially important: you must explicitly allow cookies to be used that are not absolutely necessary for the website to function. And the provider may not somehow obtain this consent. Cookie notices that manipulate you or induce consent that you actually did not want (so-called dark patterns ) are not permitted.
Cookies are not malware
Good for you to know: Even though cookies have received a lot of criticism in recent years – cookies are not malware. They are not active programs that can spy on your computer. Nothing will be saved without your consent. The General Data Protection Regulation has been giving you power back since May 2018. You decide how many cookies and which are placed on your computer. So it is worth taking a closer look at the cookie query.
Tips and Tricks
How to get rid of unwanted cookies, which boxes you should set in the cookie query and even more exciting hacks on the subject of cookies can be found in the article All cookies under control .
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