Cookies are small files that web servers place on a user's hard drive. They can serve several functions:
- they allow the web site to identify you as a previous visitor each time you access a site;
- they track what information you view at a site (important to commercial sites trying to determine your buying preferences);
- in the more advanced cases they track your movements through many websites but not the whole web;
- businesses use them for customer convenience to allow them to produce a list of items to buy and pay for them all at one time and to garner information about what individuals are buying at their sites;
- advertisers use them to determine the effectiveness of their marketing and offer insights into consumer preferences and tastes by collecting data from many websites; and
- they can be used to help a website tailor screens for each customer's preference.
Be aware that despite anything we do to protect electronic information, e-mail is not necessarily secure against interception.