In this guide, we explain in simple terms exactly what HTTP cookies are. We’ll also help you understand what third-party cookies are and when (or if) they should allow the server to use them during an online session.
Cookies are used to allow servers to monitor and maintain information regarding a consumer’s contents, preferences, and digital shopping carts on that site. Without web cookies, every user interaction with the same web page would need to be treated as new, without any connection to their previous browsing history. For example, if you delete your sessions’ cookies, you’d have to log back in every single time.
So What Exactly Are HTTP Cookies?
What are HTTP cookies and how are they utilized by websites is a question we receive often? Nowadays, HTTP cookies are also used to keep tabs on user preferences and behavior across multiple sites. The latter is mainly utilized for promotion and entails monitoring the consumer cross-site and thereby targeting advertisements.
Even if a user visits different sites served by separated servers, there can be advertisements on these pages coming from the first server. This allows the host supplying the ads to monitor a consumer’s web browsing patterns across multiple sites.
An HTTP cookie may contain small pieces of data and will often have a chain randomly created by the server. In other words, there’s no private information stored in the cookie. The server can, however, save data and consumer preferences. These session cookies then allow the host to associate the data stored on the site with the user, should they visit the site again.
Most browsers enable the user to choose if he or she wishes to accept a cookie from a web server. If the consumer declines, this disables the performance on the site.
However, if a site has an online shopping cart with tracking cookies, it will consequently be impossible for the consumer to create a purchase without first accepting their use.
Do HTTP Cookies Expire?
When it comes to what HTTP Cookies are and how they work, you should also know that these have an expiration date. If a cookie has expired, the web browser does not send that particular cookie to the server with the page request. Additionally, users can manually delete all selected cookies.
Because the information in the cookie is not private, and any host can simply acquire the user’s private information, cookies are regarded as a huge threat to our information privacy. The biggest reason for concern is the monitoring of consumer behavior over multiple sites.
HTTP cookies are nowadays subject to laws in the USA, the UK, and other nations, and there are different areas of concern involved. For example, if multiple users use the same PC, they will appear as just one user to the webserver.
Additionally, cookies might be stolen, and because the website will not know, they will trust that it is you, and provide the cybercriminal the same access that you already have.
One alternative involves monitoring the consumer from their IP address. However, this is not efficient enough as multiple users can share the exact same IP address or proxy host. Other options include HTTP authentication and depositing of data to URLs.
In this quick guide, we’ve explained what HTTP cookies are, and how they can be used by websites to snoop into our sensitive information. We’ve seen why they’re a reason for concern over information privacy, and touched on the topic of alternatives.