What about those cookies – Anno Domini 2008.

I was talking to a friend (who shall remain nameless) about the internet the other day, and somehow we got to talking about the benefits of cookies, and  I said:

“Dude, I delete my cookies all the time.”

and he said:

“What the heck for?”

Hmm… I was a bit surprized. Have I missed  something ? – Although I am still a novice when it comes to the actual behind-the-scenes of website technology, I understand that cookies serve a purpose. I learned today, in this article, that for a website to indentify you, even if you just move from one page to the next on the same site , the choice is between placing a cookie on your computer or inserting the cookie information as a query string into the URL of the page you’re navigating to (cool lingo, huh ?). That’s it. Interesting. Out of the two, cookies seems to offer more privacy, when it’s a matter of transferring private information. You wouldn’t want the next website you visit to read: http://……John Smith&akacookiemonster&hasquestionsaboutathletesfoot&chainsmoker…. – whatever.

Yet, since about 1997 when I first started using the internet, I’ve had this “cookies are evil” mentality. Why ? Because you used to be told cookies were a potential invasion of privacy. People (shady websites, criminal organizations, evil governments, you name it) would be able to keep track of you and your life online…. Big Brother, need I say more ? Now, I’m learning (the link above) that only the website that places the cookies can access it again. Hmm. Clearly, I have some catching up to do. I didn’t really know that.

Okay, as usual, wikipedia.org has all the answers, and lists a whole barrage of evil ways to abuse the cookie world. Apparently, the kind of information stored in cookies is typically harmless. The “threat” is in tracking the cookie victim. You visit the website once, and the 2nd time around, Mr. Website knows that you’ve been there before. Is that so bad? If only those places you visit know that you have visited there, and you’re in charge of and responsible for what sites you visit, where’s the problem ? I guess cookies are threat level “very light yellow”.

All this I pretty much already knew, and I HAVE changed my habits. I have set my IE security to a somewhat restricted level that allows some cookies but not all. But almost daily I clean up my computer using a little utility that erases all the cookie crumbs. I do this mainly to get rid of junk that slowly fills up the computer. …Yeah, I realize that with Terabyte hard disks this may not make a lot of sense. Call me old-fashioned.  But I also don’t want someone else who may use my computer to see that I have visited obama.com more often than hillary.net. It wouldn’t hurt my if everyone knew what type of toothpaste I use. Still, it’s of nobody else’s business.

I think that if I want to be “remembered” by a website, I should be able to create an account. If I want to keep things in my amazon shopping cart till the next time I return, I create an account. When I come back, I log in again, and – click-a-dee-click – there is my shopping cart with all the books I wasn’t sure I really wanted to buy last time. So, maybe I can let down my guard with respect to cookies. But they’ve sure left a bad taste in my mouth.


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