How do you know when to allow cookies?

You ask a security question, we answer!

In our live Ask Archer show on Facebook, Phil asked, “How can you determine which sites are safe to allow cookies from and which are not? And how do you make adjustments in your browser to allow for some — but not all — cookies?”

Watch here:

 

 

Cookies

Cookies on computers — unlike their real-life edible counterparts — may take more than you want to give.

We turn to Archer International’s Patrick C. Miller for answers.

“Cookies are ways to store information about your visit to that website so that you can reuse the website in the future and have things appear as though you were when you left it,” Miller explained.

Cookies can remember what items you had in your shopping cart, or help you automatically log in, among other things.

“If you want your username to be repopulated for logging in, for example, or if you have certain settings that you like on the site, they’ll all be there for you when you come back,” Miller said. 

They can help you have a smooth, seamless experience on a site.

“When you close your browser — unless you’re using cookies — everything that you did on that web site basically goes away,” he added.

 

Computer cookies may take more than you want to give. Image credit: rawpixel

 

Good & bad cookies

Cookies can be very useful in some cases. 

However, in other cases, they are used to track everything you do on a site and resell the data to other companies.

“Some of them can be rather invasive,” Miller said. “They can, believe it or not, go in and scour through your browser history and your search history and record all of that.”

You can thank cookies for the ads that show up for something you searched for — or bought — yesterday.

“There are some good cookies and there are some bad cookies,” Miller said. 

What can you do?

There are ways to manage your cookies in your browser, Miller said.

For example, if you use Chrome, you can go to Settings, look in Advanced, check “Privacy and security,” and click on “Cookies.”

The browsers, like ChromeFirefox and Opera, will give you information on how to manage your cookies.

“A lot of them already have native settings in there,” he said. “You can go to Google and type, you know, ‘Firefox cookie settings’ and it actually will be one of the first search engine hits.”

 

You can manage your cookies on your browser. Look for the privacy settings. Image: Safari

 

Plug-ins

You can also use plug-ins for your browser that will help you fine-tune what your browser will share and not share.

You may choose to disable tracking cookies, for example.

Some plug-ins will even make a cookie-crunching sound as they deny a cookie.

“If you’re worried about what the cookies are storing, but you still want to use cookies, you can go in and allow them on a site-by-site basis for some,” he said.

What does Miller do?

“I like to have my browser in private mode,” he said. “That means it basically doesn’t even store any cookies.”

Turning off cookie settings means you will have a different experience online than you are used to.

“The site won’t look the same because, in almost all cases, they’re designed to operate with cookies in place and functioning,” he said.

 

Check your browser’s privacy settings to see how many sites are tracking you.

 

How do you know which sites to allow cookies from?

“The reality is, most of the sites, even the ones you think you trust, are harvesting frightening amounts of information about you,” Miller explained. “That’s just that’s just the reality.”

“There are things called ‘forever cookies’ that just never go away, even when you purge them out of your browser,” he said. “They track everywhere you’ve been, in every site that you visited, for example.”

Miller said he doesn’t trust cookies on a lot of sites.

“I usually allow on a site-by-site basis,” he said. “I turn cookies off and I go to the site that I want to go to and see how ‘broken’ it is. And if I can still operate, then I operate with cookies. And if I can’t, then I go into my settings and I allow cookies for that site.”

 

See more Ask Archer questions & answers:

Should I have a password on my phone?

Which operating system is secure on a computer?

How often should I turn off my phone?

Should I pay for antivirus protection?