Cookies, or more precisely HTTP cookies, are small text files that are stored on a users computer when websites are visited that make use of them. They can store session information, shopping cart contents, website preferences, and can be used for authentication and for tracking purposes.
The wide range of applications make them sometimes beneficial or even necessary, and at other times something that is best to be avoided to improve your online privacy. Because they are sometimes needed, you can't just go ahead and block them all, as you would render certain websites that require them inoperable. When used for authentication for instance, you'd be asked to log in on every page load that you make on the site which for obvious reasons is impracticable to say the least.
Tracking cookies on the other hand do not benefit the user at all unless you would say that targeted advertisement is beneficial. It does not really make sense to enable cookies for all websites, especially those that use them to track the user. It's more of a privacy issue but one that many users take serious.
Most browsers either come with built-in features to enable cookies on a per site basis or provide extensions and add-ons that make it easy to enable cookies only on websites where cookies are necessary for the website to function properly.Firefox users can for instance use the excellent CS Lite Cookie Manager.
Internet Explorer comes with some settings in the Internet Options that can manage cookies effectively has a few options as well but not as man as Internet Explorer.
Whitelisting cookies when needed is one option that you have. It is probably the best option as you will block all cookies except the ones that are needed to make full use of websites and services you visit.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.