Your Privacy in a World of Cookies and Web Beacons

About Cookies

Website servers create a "cookie" by asking your web browser to store a piece of information from them. Cookies cannot take information from your computer. The information can only come from the server or data that you have provided to the server. Every time you visit a page on the website any cookies that were set are given back to the server and to maintain security the browser allows servers to see only the cookies that they themselves set.

The most common use of a cookie is to store a "session identifier," so that every time you visit a page on the website the server is able to retrieve the session identifier and can remember who you are. Session identifiers usually act as keys to data the server is saving for you. This is the fundamental principle behind tools such as shopping carts, where the contents need to be saved and available as you move between different pages.

A sub-category of cookies is the "third-party cookie," which is the fundamental component of a Web Beacon...

About Web Beacons

Some companies offer services to their clients to track the frequency of your visits to other types of websites on the network. This is accomplilshed through a web beacon which is an item on a web page, usually a picture, that is loaded from their website and allows them to save a "session" cookie with your brower. When you visit any other website that also includes their item, that same cookie is sent back to them and then they can identify the date and time that you visited another one of their clients. Because the item and associated cookie require communcation with a different server than the one where the page came from these are identified as "third-party cookies."

The history they keep is cannot be tied to your personal information (like your name or address). But it does have an immediate use on their clients' websites for selectivly targeting you with advertisements related to your interests, as so far as they can identify them from this "browsing history."

Your Choices about Cookies

You control the configuration of your web browser, and you have the choice to turn off cookies. However when you disable cookies, session identifiers and shopping cart applications will often no longer function. A better choice is to configure your browser to disable "third-party cookies," so that the website you are visiting will continue to work but services that track your habits will not function.

Releated Topics

If you have an questions or concerns about cookies, please contact us and we will be happy to help.