What is a Cookie

24 November 2017

A ‘COOKIE’ IS A SMALL PIECE of information sent by a website and stored on your web browser. This is useful because a web page doesn't have any ‘memory’ of what happened before. The cookie allows it to remember certain aspects about your visit as you browse from page to page.

Cookies aren’t as evil as most people have you believe. The website can only ‘write’ plain text information to your computer for later retrieval. It cannot contain executable code, and as such it cannot be used to get data from your hard drive, get your email address, or steal other sensitive information. Furthermore, the cookie can only be read back by the same site that created it.

This site

Psychology Solution uses a session cookie to keep track of what happens behind the scenes as you browse from page to page. The site works smoother and faster because things can be remembered and reused instead of being repeated and recalculated for each page. So although not essential, it’s better to have cookies enabled when using this site.

A session cookie, as used on this site, doesn’t store any information at all. It simply saves a number that links your current visit to some information stored on the server. When you finish your browsing session, both the cookie and the information on the server are automatically deleted.

Examples of cookie usage

Here are a few general examples of cookie usage on the Internet; not necessarily how they’re used on this site.

  • Storing username and login details to keep a person logged in as they browse from page to page.
  • An online ordering system that remembers items placed in a ‘shopping basket’.
  • Targeted marketing that builds up a profile of where a person goes and what adverts they click on. This information can then be used to show adverts which the company thinks are of interest. This may feel like an invasion of privacy but it’s been used by direct marketing (mail) and by shop loyalty cards for years. It means the advertising might at least be relevant.
  • Personalised web pages that save a person’s preferences such as the information they want to see, or their location or time zone. For example, a news or weather site displaying local information.

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