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What the Hell Are Cookies and Why Do I Need to Clear Them?

If you’re anything like us, you’re generally tech-savvy, but there are a handful of buzzy computer terms you only pretend to know. Case in point: Cookies. Never fear; we’re here to explain.

Tell it to me straight: What are cookies? A computer cookie is basically a small text file that gets left behind on your machine after you visit a particular website. This file can store all types of info--from the content you’ve searched for to the links you’ve clicked on. That data then gets collected to create a computer-generated profile of all your online activities.

Isn’t that kind of creepy? It depends. Cookies can be helpful. For example, they make your web browsing experience wayyy more efficient by remembering things like your login name and password and what items you have in your Amazon shopping cart. The kind of cookies you need to watch out for are the ones called third-party cookies.

Wait, there are two different types of cookies? Yup--and third-party cookies are the bad ones because they follow you around the Internet, track your history and then serve up ads based on what they think you want to buy.

Yikes! So, should I clear my cookies to protect my privacy? Yes and no. Your best bet is to check the privacy settings on your web browser (this is typically located under "preferences"). There you’ll find the option to specifically block third-party sites and data only. Keep the good cookies. Delete the bad ones. Get on with your life.

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