What are tracking cookies

What is a tracking cookie? Learn how to remove or disable third party tracking cookies on your web browser.

What are tracking cookies?

As you probably know, cookies are small files that websites save in your computer when your browser makes a request for a page, image, download, or any other piece of data. In short, cookies enhance your Internet browsing experience by helping websites remember you. Like the delicious baked variety, cookies come in many flavors. One type of cookie, called tracking cookies, are a bit controversial.  

OK, so what are tracking cookies then?

Tracking cookies are types of computer cookies that marketers use to target you and retarget you with ads that may interest you based on your browsing habits. Some of the most common third-party tracking cookies originate from technology giants like Facebook or Google. These companies use their components across the web to send cookies that they can read to track you.

You may pick up such a cookie from any of your favorite pages like entertainment websites, ecommerce platforms, or blogs. The websites themselves can only read cookies they create. However, the third-party components these websites host, visible or invisible, can transmit cookies to your system. A visible component could be a like button, while an invisible component can be advertising code.

Advertisers use these cookies to track your behavior and deliver custom ads. Let’s say you’re searching the Internet for winter tires for your vehicle. The tracking cookies will use this information to hit you with banners on social media pages offering you deals on winter tires or related products.

Can someone track you through cookies?

Tracking cookies can track your browsing history, general geographical area, and your IP address for more targeted marketing. With your general geographical location, a tracking cookie can allow a marketer to show you advertising for deals at your city’s fast food joints or sales at your local clothing store based on your Internet habits. So, yes, tracking cookies can track you. However, they can’t track your specific location like your street address.

Are tracking cookies spyware?

While tracking cookies raise some privacy concerns, we wouldn’t call them spyware, because unlike spyware, they don’t operate secretively, damage your computer, or are hard to stop. In fact, you can stop tracking by deleting these cookies or disabling third-party cookies in your browser. Spyware, on the other hand, is a sneaky type of malicious software that hides in your system and documents your confidential information like your usernames, passwords, pictures, videos, emails, and texts for a threat actor. Please use a free anti spyware scanner & removal tool if you suspect your computer has a spyware, keylogger, stalkerware, or Trojan infection.

Should I worry about tracking cookies?

If you don’t mind cookies tracking your browsing habits and your general location, then you don’t have anything to worry about. However, if you feel that this an invasion of your privacy, you can always delete and disable tracking cookies. Additionally, you can clear your cache to remove more data.

You can also refuse cookies from websites, though this isn’t always easy to do. In fact, Google and Facebook were fined for making cookies hard to refuse. Unfortunately, this is part of a dark pattern, a design that subtly yet deliberately pushes you in the direction of a choice benefitting the designer.

How to clear and disable third-party tracking cookies

Mozilla Firefox

  1. Click the three-lined icon and select Options.
  2. Click Privacy & Security and then Cookies and Site Data.
  3. Select Cookies and Site Data.
  4. Select Cached Web Content.
  5. Hit Clear to clear cookies in Firefox.
  6. Now click Content Blocking.
  7. Select Custom.
  8. Select Cookies.
  9. Select All third-party cookies.

Microsoft Edge

  1. Click the three-dots icon on the top right-hand corner and select Settings.
  2. Click Privacy, search, and services.
  3. Click Choose what to clear under Clear browsing data.
  4. Select Browsing history, Download history, Cookies and other site data, and Cached images and files.
  5. Hit Clear now to clear cookies in Microsoft Edge.
  6. Click Block third-party cookies in Cookies and site preferences to block third-party cookies permanently.

Google Chrome

  1. Click the vertical three-dots icon on the top right-hand corner and then click Settings.
  2. Click Privacy and security.
  3. Select Cookies and other site data.
  4. Select Block third-party cookies.
  5. Click Privacy and security.
  6. Click clear browsing data.
  7. Select All time from Time range.
  8. Select Cookies and other site data.
  9. Click Clear data.

What happens if I block all cookies?

Websites use cookies to improve your browsing experience. If you block and clear all cookies including first-party website cookies, then your most frequented websites will forget who you are every time you visit them. You’ll be a stranger to them. For example, your favorite sports website may not display information related to your team immediately, or your online retailer won’t offer deals based on your previous shopping habits.

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