Cookies are text files sent from a web page to a user’s computer that enable the computer to remember certain details, such as a user’s browsing history, passwords, and data.
By allowing internet web pages to communicate with a user’s personal computer, cookies enable a smoother browsing experience in which the user can readily access their passwords, browsing history, and stored personal data, such as their address, phone number, and payment information.
Cookies also allow users to save their language preference on their browser, keep items in an ecommerce shopping cart, authenticate their identity, access personalized ads, and more.
There are a number of different types of these entities that enable different features, including “magic” cookies that foster communication between websites; HTTP cookies specifically designed for the web; first-party cookies that store information based on a user’s browsing history; and third-party cookies that track user behavior.
A cookie is both useful and controversial. Third-party cookies, for example, are typically embedded in ads and videos to track personal information. Several national and international data privacy laws have emerged to ensure stronger transparency and user protection.