Managing Cookies

A cookie is a small text file that enables a website to personalize its offerings in some way. The website downloads the cookie to your hard disk and then reads the cookie on your subsequent visits to the site. Cookies can be used for a variety of purposes, such as recording logon information, shopping preferences, pages that you have visited, searches that you have performed, and so on . In general, cookies provide benefits to users as well as to web content providers . They make the websites you visit more responsive to your needs and preferences. To open the folder containing all stored cookies, use the command shell:cookies.

Nevertheless, because cookies can provide websites with personal information about you and because some sites might not use this information in ways that you would regard as beneficial, cookies are a mixed blessing. A cookie can provide a website only with information that you supply while visiting the site (a cookie can't scurry around your hard disk, reading your address book and financial records, for example), and this information can be read only by the site that created the cookie. Nevertheless, because it's not always obvious who's sending you a cookie and what purposes that cookie will serve, many people are understandably wary about allowing cookies on their systems .

In earlier versions of Internet Explorer, your cookie management options were limited to allowing all cookies, blocking all cookies, or being prompted every time a site wanted to read or write a cookie . In practice, the second and third of these options created so much inconvenience that most users gave up and accepted all cookies. Now, thanks to the Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P) standard, Internet Explorer can block or admit cookies on the basis of the cookies' content and purposes, in accordance with your preferences. Sites that support P3P supply information about their use of cookies in the form of a compact privacy statement—special HTML tags embedded in the site's HTTP header that indicate what kind of cookies are used and for what purposes . When you access a site, Internet Explorer compares the site's compact privacy statement with your expressed privacy preferences and then accepts, blocks, or restricts the cookies

To express your preferences regarding cookies, open the Internet Options dialog box, click the Privacy tab (shown in Figure 6-17), and use the slider to choose one of the following settings:

• Block All Cookies

• Accept All Cookies The default setting is Medium n —

Note

Your privacy setting applies only to sites in the Internet zone. By default, all cookies are accepted in the Trusted Sites and Local Intranet zones.

Figure 6-17 Use the slider in this dialog box to select a policy for accepting, rejecting, and restricting cookies based on their source and purpose.

To make an informed choice, you need to understand the following terms:

• Compact privacy statement Information in a website's HTTP header that indicates the source, purpose, and lifetime of cookies used by that site. (Some cookies, called session cookies, are designed to be deleted when you leave a site. Other cookies have a fixed expiration date—usually sometime in the next decade or beyond.)

• Personally identifiable information Information that a site could use to contact you, such as your name, e-mail address, or home or work address; also, the credentials (name and password) you use to log on to a site.

• Explicit consent Giving explicit consent, also known as opting in, means that you have taken some kind of affirmative step to allow a site to use personally identifiable information

• Implicit consent To consent implicitly means not to have opted out—that is, not to have taken an affirmative step to deny a website permission to use personally identifiable information .

• First-party cookie A cookie used by the site that you are currently viewing. Firstparty cookies are generally used to personalize your experience with a website.

• Third-party cookie A cookie used by a site other than the one you're currently viewing—such as an advertiser on the site you're currently viewing.

Note

Some websites will not function at all if you block their cookies . If you find that a particular site you trust does not let you on with your current privacy setting, you can make an exception for that site and change your setting in Internet Explorer to accept all of that site's cookies, regardless of your current privacy setting . -)

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