Composite illustration of baking ingredients and utensils

Know what your cookies are made of

Hello there! Welcome to the bakery. So, you like chocolate chip cookies. Would you like to try raisin? Macadamia? Have you considered the cake? Are you interested in purchasing baking pans? Muffin tins? Baking sheets made from the finest German silicone? What was the last store you visited? The last thing you bought? What’s your credit score?

Would you answer all these questions from a baker, just for a few cookies? We didn’t think so. Then why is it that we have no problem doing it for web cookies?

To be sure, web cookies aren’t necessarily a bad thing, probably not even the worst kind of cookie (looking at you, oatmeal raisin). But how do you let the right cookies in? How do you know which are safe? Are they even necessary? Well, read below to see how we broke cookies down into their main ingredients so you can make the best call.

Web dialog box with choice to accept or decline cookies

What are cookies, anyway?

The accept cookies pop-up is something we’re all familiar with. Nearly every site asks for your acceptance and often won’t display content unless you agree. So we’ve learned to just say “yes” without giving a thought to what yes even means. Taking the time to understand every cookie would be a daunting challenge, but here’s some general information to help.

Essentially, cookies are just packets of information that let websites get to know you. They improve your browsing experience on websites by helping to identify your preferences and remembering all sorts of information about you, like username, password, and shopping preferences. Your cookie data is part of your digital identity—helping shape you into a real person from all the digital noise on the internet.

Take a breather before you lose your appetite. Those cookies can provide value to you, too. Without cookies, you’d have to log back in every time you exited a website. Doing some shopping? No cookies mean your favorite online stores won’t know what items to suggest. And that shopping cart? You know, the one you’ve been filling with your dream items for months? Without cookies, you’d have to rebuild it every time you returned.

So those little things that make your online experience a little more seamless wouldn’t be possible without cookies.

Kitchen whisk covered with cookie dough

Are they bad?

By and large, cookies are not bad. The don’t really give away anything, but in the wrong hands they can reveal some pretty sensitive information. Imagine if a site was compromised or hacked. Those cookies that were once so helpful to you become a treasure trove of information and personal data to that hacker, allowing them to track your online activity and potentially gain access to your accounts. What a nightmare.

But the real danger is not in sharing your data with cookies, it’s in visiting websites that shouldn’t be trusted. Some companies have dubious practices around what they do with your data, selling it in a “de-identified” form to third parties. It allows other companies to target you with ads and track your browsing behaviors.

The good news is that public outcry has helped pushed back on these practices and laws are changing to further protect the consumer. Third-party cookies are being phased out as companies are looking to be more digitally transparent.

Chocolate chip cookie with one bite missing

How to manage cookies

Managing your cookies is really about limiting or controlling your exposure. We have some tools to help you keep your private information private.

  1. Microsoft Edge InPrivate Browsing limits tracking of your online activities. It blocks some cookies from using your information and gives an added layer of protection. This is great for general usage but has some pretty specific applications that can improve your browsing experience. Say you’re searching for a gift for a friend—something you’d never buy for yourself. Take control and use InPrivate Browsing to make sure you don’t continue to get targeted for that item. Especially important if that friend ever sees the screen on your device. Don’t want to spoil the surprise!
  2. For even more protection, enable Microsoft Edge Password Monitor to alert you if a site you have a saved password on has been compromised. Cookies aren’t designed to be malicious, but if the wrong person gets a look at the data they store, it could be a huge security threat for you. By knowing when your password has been compromised, you can better protect yourself. Learn how to turn it on.

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