PC Doctor November 28, 2014

Have your computer questions answered here! Search the PC Doctor archive or submit a question of your own at info@athollibrary.org

Dear PC Doctor:
I went to a workshop recently where someone told me it was a good idea to change my internet browser to block “third party cookies.” What are third party cookies?  What do they do?  If I wanted to block them, how would I do it?  Is there any reason not to block third party cookies?
Thanks, Phil
Dear Phil:
So, cookies are data files that get placed on your computer when you visit a website. A cookie can send data to the server of the websites that get visited by that computer. The idea is that when the website is visited again from that computer, it is recognized as a repeat visitor.
Are cookies bad?  Cookies are necessary in order for you to be recognized as an individual user on the internet.  Any site that you log in to as an individual requires a way of identifying you as "you": Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, online banking, ebay, Amazon, etc.  Cookies make it possible for you to save items in your on-line shopping cart or wish list, for instance.  If you use a service that requires you to log in every time, (like Facebook), and you click the choice to keep you logged in from that computer, cookies are in use.
When you visit a web page that has content from another site, like a clickable banner ad, your computer will also get a cookie for the site referenced in the banner ad, even though you didn’t visit that site.  That’s a third party cookie.
Advertisers who use cookies to track don’t see you by name, but your browsing history is (anonymously) tracked as an individual user.  If you look at a lot of funny videos, or news sites, or shop for kitchenware, the use of third party cookies will result in your seeing sidebar ads that in some way relate to your browsing habits.  Some people find this intrusive or creepy.  If you do, you can choose to block third party cookies.
To block third party cookies, open the web browser you like to use.  Open the help menu and search for how to “block third party cookies.” Follow the instructions.  Below are instructions for blocking third party cookies in Internet Explorer.
Open Internet Explorer.
Click the Tools button, and then click Internet Options.
Click the Privacy tab, move the slider to the level of privacy that you want to set, and then click OK.
As you move the slider, Internet Explorer provides a description of the types of cookies that are blocked or allowed at that privacy level.
In the end, whether to block third party cookies is a judgment call based on how you use the internet and what your comfort level is.
Until next time …Happy computing!
       PC Doctor