• James Finney

Your Incognito Browser Loves Cookies


With the rise of this digital age comes the need to fully understand what web cookies are. Cookies are not malicious viruses or spyware nor are they chocolate chip. Disabling and deleting cookies in your browser could mean the erasure of personal data in the web. A number of websites and apps require that cookies be enabled in order for the proper webscript to run.


The technical definition of a cookie as provided by Webster is, “a small file or part of a file stored on a World Wide Web user's computer, created and subsequently read by a website server, and containing personal information.” In simpler terms, the information that a user inputs into a browser or textbox is being retained within a file in the server.


It is true that cookies grab valuable information, but most of that is given per the user’s permission. Over time, web cookies are more beneficial than detrimental, but should still be used with care. Some information should never be stored within a specific browser.


There are an array of web cookies that have different actions. An everyday example of information saved and gathered through cookies are usernames and passwords. The general term for a cookie that saves information across uses is persistent cookie. The method into which the information is stored, whether it be encrypted or hashed, depends on the website or browser that it is stored in.


That being said, it is not easy for a password to be grabbed from a cookie that a server uses.


The code of the cookie depends on that site, and in some cases that site has its own language that also needs to be translated before the desired information is grabbed. These cookies can be stored for years at a time depending on the server, so if desired, they need to be manually deleted by the user. Other uses for persistent cookies are restoring sessions if the browser is unexpectedly closed.


Be aware that any information inputted into autofill could be saved in a cookie. Refrain from entering your social security number and be cautious of which online shopping sites your credit card information is entered on. PayPal is an example of a company that uses encryptions to store account information instead of cookies that lack the needed security.


Session cookies are the collection of information between the opening and closing of a webpage or app. When you return to that source, it will not recognize that you’d previously visited. The information inputted is deleted upon the closing the session. This is significant from page to page rather site to site.


It is also the working mechanisms of incognito pages activated in google and other browsers. Cookies are still grabbing search terms when an incognito page is effective, independent of other pages. Keep in mind that incognito browsers are specific to the search browser being used. Local privacy is protected on the device you are using but online privacy is unaffected. Google has its session cookies that are deleted with the session, but the site being used has its own persistent cookies that retain content searched within that site to skew user preferences.


Understanding how these sites use and distribute their cookies is elaborated in the cookies privacy policy. To delete information specific to a website, visit the browser cookie settings. The settings provide instructions and site specifics, so take care not to delete passwords you haven’t remembered in 3 years. Cookies are not harmful, but if handled incorrectly, they can leave a bad aftertaste.

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