Cookies are something like Web-page preference files. Certain Web sites—particularly commercial ones like Amazon.com—deposit them on your hard drive like little bookmarks so they’ll remember you the next time you visit. On Amazon, in fact, a greeting says, “Hello, Casey” (or whatever your name is), thanks to the cookie it uses to recognize you.
Most cookies are perfectly innocuous—and, in fact, are extremely helpful. They can let your PC log into a site automatically or let you customize what the site looks like and how you use it.
But fear is on the march, and the media fan the flames with tales of sinister cookies that track your movement on the Web. Some Web sites rely on cookies to record which pages you visit on a site, how long you spend on a site, what kind of information you like to find out, and so on.
If you’re worried about invasions of privacy—and you’re willing to trade away some of the conveniences of cookies—Internet Explorer is ready to protect you.
Before you begin your cookie-fortification strategy, you’ll have to bone up on a little terminology. Here are a few explanations to get you started:
A first-party cookie is created by the site you’re currently visiting. These kinds of cookies generally aren’t privacy invaders; they’re the Amazon type described above, designed to log you in or to remember how you’ve customized, for example, the Google home page.