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Chapter 5. Securing Your Home Network > Protecting Your Privacy

Protecting Your Privacy

When surfing the Web, you may have noticed that some Web sites remember your personal settings from previous visits. The Web site can do this because it placed a cookie on your computer, which is a small piece of data that a Web site can use to identify you as a returning visitor. In general, cookies make surfing the Web a more convenient and enjoyable experience; however, because they can be used to help keep track of your surfing habits, there is a slight tradeoff in privacy and anonymity.

A first-party cookie is a cookie placed on your computer by the Web site that you’re currently viewing. This type of cookie is typically used to keep track of your user name, password, and other personal settings for that Web site. For security purposes, a Web site can access only the cookie that it placed on your computer, and not cookies placed by other Web sites. However, many Web sites use additional content, such as advertising, from other third-party providers. (You may see this content in the form of advertising banners or pop-up windows.) The third-party provider might also store a cookie, called a third-party cookie, on your computer. A third-party cookie poses a greater risk to privacy because it allows the third party to track your behavior on multiple Web sites. For example, if three news Web sites use the same third-party advertiser, the advertiser can use its third-party cookie to track your browsing habits on all three of those Web sites. In general, first-party cookies help make Web sites easier for you to use, while third-party cookies track your online behavior for marketing purposes.


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