Have you ever scanned your PC for viruses or malware and were surprised by the growing number of “threats” found? Your laptop probably doesn’t have 220 Trojans, right?
Assuming you are using some discretion when browsing the web and downloading files, this is unlikely. However, chances are you’ve viewed websites that track your activity in some way.
It may seem like an exaggeration to describe tracking cookies as malicious or dangerous, but it is up to the user to determine whether to regularly scan and delete them. With the introduction of the Do Not Track feature, many browsers allow most tracking cookies to be blocked. However, some slip away.
In this article, let’s dive into tracking cookies and discuss what they are, how they are used and how to get rid of them.
What are tracking cookies?
To understand tracking cookies, let’s first discuss what cookies are. A cookie is a small text file that is used to store user data. For example, when you log into a website and check the box to stay logged in for future visits, your browser will store a cookie on your hard drive, which the website can subsequently interact with to know your preferences.
In addition to storing visitors’ preferences, cookies can also be used to store marketing data. This allows websites to serve targeted ads to users, which can increase their conversion rates. However, tracking cookies often take it one step further.
Some tracking cookies are sent with you all over the internet and transfer your personal information and data back to the website when you revisit it. This is commonly used for advertising purposes.
For example, if a website displays ads served by Google, your activity on that website may be taken to a completely different website that also displays Google ads.
Are cookies tracking bad?
It mainly depends on your definition of â€œbadâ€. If you are warned by tracking cookies during a virus scan, keep in mind that these cookies are not malicious and will not harm your computer.
However, over a long period of time, tracking cookies from major ad networks can become so large and contain your personal information that they can be considered invasive. Several companies that use tracking cookies include AddThis, Facebook, Google, Quantserve, and Twitter.
These companies can use aggressive tracking cookies to find out your location, device information, purchase history, searches, and more. Sometimes, you don’t even know this information is being collected. However, some countries, such as the UK, have laws requiring websites to notify users that their data is being collected using cookies.
So, can cookies damage your computer? No. Can tracking cookies violate your privacy in ways you deem unethical? Yes.
How can I avoid tracking cookies?
Thanks to anti-tracking laws, you can stop using many tracking cookies before they materialize. All major browsers support this feature through privacy settings – we even have a guide to enable Do Not Track in Microsoft Edge.
Google Chrome users can go to the Settings page, click Advanced at the bottom of the page, and enable the Send Do Not Track Request With Your Traffic View option (under Privacy & Security).
Many individual advertisers and websites also offer a Do Not Track feature. Twitter is one example where different tracking preferences are displayed when navigating to Personalization & Data settings.
In terms of advertisers, the NAI Consumer Opt-Out page can help you identify and opt out of advertisers who use tracking cookies on your browser. It supports a Bulk Failure feature that really simplifies the process.
Otherwise, you can regularly clear your browser cookies, or simply get rid of your tracking cookies during routine health checks. This is to ensure that cookies do not grow so large that they can be viewed as aggressive and dangerous.
In conclusion, the way cookies are handled depends on your preference and discretion. If you think it is harmless for websites to track your personal information and show you content related to your browsing habits, ignore them. Otherwise, the steps above may help ensure your privacy is respected. In any case, your computer is safe!