What Is a Tracking Cookie on a Computer?

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Tracking cookies, like regular web cookies, are small text files that are placed on your computer's hard drive when you browse certain websites. The difference is that tracking cookies install themselves on your computer, even when you do not visit the website that is supplying the cookies. Tracking cookies secretly monitor your web browsing activity, track personal information and should be dealt with.

Significance

  • The Internet is loaded with websites that use tracking cookies that install on your computer with the main purpose of stealing personal information such as passwords and credit card information. They also monitor your browsing activities and bombard you with pop-up advertisements. With the rise in identity theft, it is very important to protect personal information in every way possible. Understanding how tracking cookies download and operate will ensure that you are able to take the necessary steps to ensure that personal information does not fall into the wrong hands.

Types

  • Tribal Fusion is one of the most common tracking cookies. It sends information to third-party advertisers who bombard you with pop-up advertisements. CasaleMedia is another common tracking cookie. Like Tribal Fusion, it shares information between two or more web pages for the purpose of tracking your surfing history. FastClick is another common tracking cookie used by FastClick.com. It gathers information such as name and phone number, and allows the information to be retrieved by a parent company.

Warning

  • Do not use the Internet if you do not have anti-virus programs installed on your computer, because you create an open invitation to tracking cookies and other malicious parasites. Avoid leaving personal information such as your credit card number on websites that you do not trust, or that are not secure. Use common sense: if the website looks suspicious, do not leave personal information. Do not click banners and pop-ups that continually redistribute personal information to other websites they may have contact with.

Prevention/Solution

  • The best way to detect, reduce and eliminate tracking cookies is to run frequent anti-virus and spyware scans on your computer. If you do not have an anti-virus program on your computer, check out AVG Antivirus (see Resources), which also contains spyware removal capabilities to detect and remove tracking cookies. Clear your browser cache and history frequently to delete saved information that tracking cookies prey on. While this feature may vary depending on the web browser you are using, it is usually located on the "Tools" section of your browser.

Misconceptions

  • Not all cookies are tracking cookies. Many websites require cookies to function properly, but not all web cookies track browsing tendencies and send it to third-party advertisers. If you start to see countless pop-ups, then chances are you have tracking cookies on your computer. Tracking cookies are not viruses. They do not duplicate themselves like viruses do, or affect programs and applications. While they are not in the same category as viruses and Trojans, they should not by any means be considered harmless.

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