How to delete cookies from your computer – and why it matters

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There is a good chance that you have received notifications from various websites asking for permission to give you cookies. Find out what that means. (Photo: Getty)

It’s almost inevitable now: you visit a website and get a notification encouraging you to read the company’s cookie policy. Then the site asks if they can have your permission to give you cookies.

Chances are you’ll just click through, don’t bother reading the policy, and continue browsing the web, because who has time for that? But cookies allow websites to track your movements, and understandably you might not like that – or even be really aware of what’s really happening.

Everyone has cookies, but not everyone knows how to delete cookies from your computer, or even why that is important. A quick and easy way to delete cookies that track you online is to download software such as McAfee Multi Access, which removes cookies and temporary files from your computer for you. The software also blocks viruses, malware, spyware and ransomware attacks.

To attempt McAfee Multi Access free for 30 days. After that, it’s $4.99 per month.

But what exactly are cookies and why is deleting them important in certain cases? Cyber ​​security experts explain it all.

Not sure what cookies are?  Cookies are small pieces of data that identify your computer to a website with a unique code.  (Photo: Getty)

Not sure what cookies are? Cookies are small pieces of data that identify your computer to a website with a unique code. (Photo: Getty)

What are cookies again?

Joseph SteinbergCybersecurity and emerging technologies consultant tells Yahoo Life that “cookies refer to one or more small pieces of data” that identify your computer to that website with a unique code. The cookies are sent to your device by a web server while you are on that server’s website.

Your computer stores that cookie and, when you visit that website again, “the server can recognize that the device is the same as it was used before,” explains Steinberg.

Cookies are “heavily used by marketing companies that may target your interests and buying habits,” tech and cybersecurity expert Chuck Brooks, president of Brooks Consulting International, tells Yahoo Life. Cookies are why you look at a new pair of sandals on one website and then see ads for that same pair of sandals when you visit other websites.

Why do you get the question whether a website can give you cookies?

Your so-called “cookie persona” can be shared with or sold to companies, Brooks says. A European data protection and privacy law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) “has recognized this as a threat to consumer privacy,” Brooks said. As a result, he adds, “It’s one of the reasons many sites ask for permission to keep track of your personal information.”

Are cookies good or bad?

They can be both. “Cookies can be extremely helpful — and many common activities would be difficult without them,” Steinberg says. “For example, authentication cookies allow a user who logs in to a website to click and view multiple pages on the site without having to re-authenticate each time he or she tries to access another page that requires authentication.”

Cookies are generally divided into two groups:

  • Session cookies, which expires immediately after you are done being online

  • Permanent cookies, which stay with you during many different web sessions

“Cookies can also allow a site to remember a user’s username — without authenticating the user — or other personalization preferences,” Steinberg says.

But cookies aren’t always great. Privacy issues are one thing to consider. “It’s best to know who is tracking your activity, and you should check and delete any cookies that may be unwanted,” Brooks suggests.

Steinberg says, “One of the problems with cookies is that many sites now use third-party cookies. For example, many sites can display banner ads from the same ad provider, and that provider’s code can send and receive cookies to run on all those sites, making it can track your activity across multiple sites.”

Not all cookies are bad.  Some can be very helpful, experts say.  (Photo: Getty)

Not all cookies are bad. Some can be very helpful, experts say. (Photo: Getty)

How to delete cookies

How often you should delete your cookies and which ones you should delete depends on the device you are using. “If you’re using a work device, I recommend blanket cleaning,” Brooks says. This means that you must regularly delete all your cookies.

“On personal devices, I would often review the cookies and delete the ones that you don’t want to continuously track you,” Brooks says.

Every web browser is slightly different, but in Chrome, for example, these are the steps you need to take to delete cookies:

  1. Click on the three dotted lines in the top right corner (Tools menu)

  2. Select “history”

  3. Check “clear browsing data” and set the range to “always” or a specific time period (if you know you don’t want to delete cookies from before a certain date)

  4. Check “cookies and other site data” and “clear data”

  5. Close the browser to save your changes

Don’t feel like doing that regularly? Software like McAfee Multi Access can take care of it for you, delete the cookies you don’t want, while keeping the cookies you do.

Cookies aren’t necessarily bad, Steinberg points out, but what companies do with the information they collect may in some cases be.

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