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Controlling Cookies

When you view a page in your Web browser, some servers give you more than you asked for; quietly, without your knowledge, they record information about you and your actions in a hidden file called a cookie. In more formal terms, these data stores are called client-side persistent data, and they offer a simple way for a Web server to keep track of your actions. Dozens of legitimate uses exist for cookies: Commercial Web sites use them to keep track of items as you fill your online shopping basket; the New York Times and other online publication Web sites store your username and password so you can log in automatically; still other sites deliver pages tailored to your interests, based on information you've entered in a Web-based form.

Unfortunately, cookies can also be used to track your Web site surfing habits and can store passwords in a nonencrypted or poorly encrypted form on your system. Because cookies are automatically accepted by default with Internet Explorer, even an accidental trip to a site with objectionable content could trigger the copying of one or more cookies to your system. In addition, email spammers can also use email cookies to confirm your email address and keep that junk email coming!


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