A cookie is a little snippet of data that websites can save to systems of users connecting to them. While web browsers ship with options to block cookies by default or prompt users for action, the default way of handling cookies is to allow them to be saved automatically.
Cookies are not necessarily bad as they can be used for a variety of legitimate purposes such as saving the logged in state of a user or site preferences without account.
Cookies do have a bad reputation though which comes from the fact that they are used for tracking purposes. Generally speaking, you need to distinguish between first and third party cookies.
First party cookies are saved by the hostname you are on. If you visit Ghacks and my site would save a cookie to your system, that would be a first party cookie.
Third party cookies on the other hand are saved by external domain names, say a Facebook or Google ads cookie. This only happens if the site has embedded third party scripts on the other hand most of the time.
So, if you see Google Analytics or Google Ads being used on a site, chance is high that Google third party cookies are saved to your system.
Since services that drop cookies on systems can process those cookies whenever sites that embed their scripts are accessed, it is possible to use them for tracking purpose.
The first thing you may want to check is how many cookies are saved on your system right now. Note that cookies are browser and profile dependent. If you use multiple browsers or different profiles, then you will notice that cookies are independent of each other in this case.
Google Chrome (native)
Internet Explorer (native)
The easiest way to find out how many cookies a site saves to your system is to use the Developer Tools that are included in your browser of choice.
Now that you know how many and which cookies sites save to your system, you may want to do something about it. One of the easiest options is to disable third-party cookies completely in the browser.
Firefox: Press Alt, select Tools > Options, then Use custom settings for history under Privacy and Security, and there Never next to "accept third-party cookies".
Chrome: Load chrome://settings/ in the browser, click on Advanced, then on Site Settings and there on Cookies. There you check "block third-party cookies".
Internet Explorer: Tap on the Alt-key and select Tools > Internet Options. Switch to Privacy and click on Advanced there. Check "Override automatic cookie handling" and switch third-party cookies to block.
Microsoft Edge: Start with a click on the Menu-icon and then on Setings. Scroll down to Advanced settings and click on the button underneath it (named view advanced settings). Scroll down to cookies and select "block only third-party cookies" from the menu.
Opera: Load opera://settings/, switch to Privacy & security, and make sure "block third-party cookies and site data" is checked there.
You can also switch the settings to prompt instead. This will displays a prompt whenever a site wants to save a cookie to your system.
An alternative to that are browser extensions that may provide you with a variety of excellent features. Here is a small selection of tools:
Favor another add-on? Please share it in the comment section below.
Now Read: How to delete cookies on a computer
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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.