What are browser cookies?:
Cookies are commonly used to store personal registration data like your name, your address, the contents of a shopping cart, your preferred layout for a Web page, what map you might be looking at, and so on. Cookies make it easy for Web servers to personalize information to fit your specific needs and preferences when you're visiting a Web site.
Why are they called "cookies"?:
Are cookies dangerous?:
Can cookies be used to spy on me?:
Furthermore, cookies can only be accessed by the server that initiated them. This makes it impossible for one Web server to snoop around in cookies set by other servers, grabbing sensitive bits of your personal information.
What makes cookies controversial?:
This may sound ominous, but tracking your progress online isn't necessarily such a bad thing. When tracking is used within a site, the data can help site owners tweak their designs, enhancing popular areas and eliminating or redesigning "dead ends" for a more efficient user experience. Tracking data can also be used to give users and site owners more targeted information or to make recommendations on purchases, content, or services to users, a feature many users appreciate. For example, one of Amazon.com's most popular retail features is the targeted recommendations it makes for new merchandise based on your past viewing and purchase history.
Should I disable cookies on my computer?:
If you go to websites that personalize your experience extensively, you won't be able to see much of that if you disable cookies. Many sites use these simple text files to make your Web browsing session as personalized and efficient as possible simply because it's a much better user experience to not have to keep entering in the same information every time you visit. If you disable cookies in your Web browser, you won't get the benefit of the time saved by these cookies, nor will you have a completely personalized experience.
The bottom line is this: cookies really do no harm to your computer or your Web browsing experience. It's only when advertisers are not as ethical as they should be with the data stored in your cookies where things get into a bit of a grey area. Still, your personal and financial information is completely safe, and cookies are not a security risk.
Cookies: What They Really Are:
Unfortunately, some websites and Internet advertisers have found other uses for cookies. They can and do gather sensitive personal information that might be used to profile users with advertisements that seem almost intrusive with how targeted they are.
Cookies do offer quite a few very useful benefits that make Web browsing very convenient. On the other hand, you might be concerned that your privacy has the potential to be violated. However, this isn't something that Web users should necessarily be concerned about. Cookies are absolutely harmless.
For more on Web privacy and staying safe online, read the following articles: