May 18, 2014 by Ozgur Ozden
before we delve into details privacy and legislations over Cookies first let us investigate the history of cookies. Idea is first invented and patented (US 5774670) by a Netscape employee, Lou Montulli, when he was designing an ecommerce project, specifically virtual shopping cart. Very basically cookie can be defined as a small text that web server sends to user and stored on the user’s hard disk. In this way web server communicates with its users and stores specific data related to its users on their drives. Usually this specific data starts with name-value pairs. If we visit a site called example.com, web server leaves a cookie on the hard drive as:
UserID B8F456YE5R7N32UCV5 http://www.example.com/
Name-value pair is UserID and the value is the number assigned to it. This piece of information reside on the HD and every time we visit the site our browser sends these name-pair Id’s back to the server. If we haven’t visited the the site so far browser sends no cookie data and web site assign a new userID for us. there are many parameters can be added to a cookie such as expiration date, session-time, name, content, domain, path, send for, created, Accessible to Script.
This cookie stored on the HD can not track information about the other sites we have visited or collect information about our system.
There are many advantages for using a cookie. With this system, websites can determine how many users they have, how many of them are new and how many of the are returning users. Users can customize the site preferences like color, language, location, weather, username, etc… Also it can be used for administrative purposes for the the site, analyse the site traffic, targeted ads.
Some sites store these information on their servers leaves only the ID on the hard disk of the user. This system allows for more modification and personalization. Website embed these preferences in a cookie and sent back to the user so every time user enters to the site see his preferences. E Commerce sites use this system to keep track of items in user’s shopping cart and make sure that the items still stays in the shopping cart next time they visited the site. They can prepare custom made pages, advertisements by tracking your preferences. Users set their preferences in the web site and save them.
On the other hand we do have some disadvantages, or possible dangers for using a cookie. For example; many people share same machines so leaving a cookie after your session might be a problem or multiple computer use might be a problem.
As a conclusion I believe that a lot of public attention brought to this subject by newspapers by the time it is introduced. Public accepted as an invasion of privacy so tension raised. If this was system was introduced as a part of an big system, such as HTML5 , i believe that no one would argue the existence. EU might be right about warning the users about cookie use. User may decide whether continue to the site or not.
1- Marshall Brain, How Internet Cookies Work (online) Available at: http://www.howstuffworks.com/cookie3.htm [Accessed at: 3rd May 2013]
2- UK enforces EU opt-in cookie law (online) Available at: http://www.computerweekly.com/news/ 1280095722/UK-enforces-EU-opt-in-cookie-law [Accessed at: 3rd May 2013]
3- New EU cookie law, Available at: http://www.ico.org.uk/for_organisations/privacy_and_electronic_communications/the_guide/cookies?hidecookiesbanner=true [Accessed at: 3rd May 2013]