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Should you delete cookies? 6 reasons you probably should clear cookies

May 25, 2021

When you  surf the web, you’ve likely clicked on those pop-up requests that ask if you will accept cookies. The question becomes: If you’ve already accepted some cookies, should you delete them?

While this opt-in may seem harmless in its ease and simplicity, it’s important to understand what storing cookies could mean for your personal information and privacy.

What are computer cookies? They’re small packets of data saved as text files on the web browser of your computer or other devices. The website you’re visiting creates these cookies, or small bits of code, to collect data from your browsing history.

Cookies can be useful as they keep track of items in your shopping carts and save your personal information — including login credentials — so sites can remember you and your preferences. However, cookies also may undermine your privacy and security.

Deciding whether to accept or clear these cookies may depend on the kinds of cookies in question. Generally, there are three types of computer cookies.

  1. Session cookies – text files that are stored in a temporary folder. Session cookies do not collect your personal data and are deleted when your browsing session ends.
  2. Stored cookies – cookies that do track your online preferences, like login credentials, in order to improve your website experience. Stored cookies will expire after some time has passed.
  3. Third-party cookies – the cookies that track you. Third-party cookies collect your data when you visit a website and may be shared with or sold to third-party advertisers.

Depending on which cookies you’re dealing with, they can pose a privacy risk due to the type of personal information they’re collecting — and what they’re doing with that data.

In this article, we discuss reasons why you may or may not want to delete cookies from your browser, along with how to clear tracking cookies from your browser.

Should You Delete Cookies?

 Is having cookies a bad thing, or should you clear them? The answer depends on the website you’re visiting in terms of who will gain access to your data and what they will do with it, along with whether clearing cookies will affect your ability to use that site. Also, not all cookies are the same, as we highlight above.

There are several reasons why you may or may not want to delete cookies.

6 reasons you should delete cookies from your browser –

Here are six reasons why it may be a good idea to clear cookies from your browser.

  1. An unencrypted website. If a website isn’t encrypted, then it isn’t protecting your privacy when it comes to computer cookies and your personal information. You’ll want to decline or delete them, if you’ve already opted in.
  2. Third-party cookies. Third-party cookies can leave you vulnerable and should be declined or deleted if they’re already stored on your browser. Otherwise, a website owner could sell your browsing data to third parties like advertisers. The problem with third-party cookies is you would have no control over what the third parties do with your data. They – or someone they share the data with – could use your personal data to do things such as commit online crimes like identity theft.
  3. Slower computer speeds. Although small, cookies do occupy space on your computer. If there are enough of them stored over a long period of time, they could slow down the speed of your computer and other devices.
  4. Flagged, suspicious cookies. If your antivirus software flags suspicious cookies, you should delete them.
  5. When using PII. Cookies can record your personally identifiable information — also known as PII or simply personal information — to do things like auto-fill forms on browsers. This information may include your name, address, account login credentials, and other personal data that could be used for nefarious purposes like identity theft and other online frauds. For example, say you’re planning on accessing your bank account information while online. You definitely should not accept cookies – and delete them if you mistakenly do.
  6. Outdated cookies. If a website page has been updated, the cached data in cookies might conflict with the new site. This could give you trouble the next time you try to upload that page.

3 reasons you may not want to delete cookies from your browser

There also are reasons for why it may not be useful, or perhaps is inconvenient, to delete cookies from your browser. 

  1. Website access. One problem with refusing to accept cookies is that if you don’t accept cookies, some website owners may not allow you to use their websites.
  2. A better user experience. In a similar way, you may not receive the full user experience on certain websites if you decline computer cookies. For example, cookies can remember and save helpful data about you, like your interests or leftover shopping cart items.
  3. Easier, quicker log-ins. Computer cookies saved on your web browser can help you use your favorite websites more efficiently. They can make online transactions extremely convenient, as you don’t have to enter in your information every time you visit a site. Instead, logging into your favorite websites is quick and easy.

How to delete cookies from your browser

If cookies already are saved on your browser, there are ways to delete cookies from browsers. This article provides step-by-step instructions on how to clear cookies from the latest versions of Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and other popular web browsers.

As a general rule, you’ll go to your respective “Settings” and “Privacy” tabs, and then clear the cookies in your website browsing data and history. In addition to clearing your cache, you can customize which cookies will be deleted based on a specific time range and other options.

Taking into consideration what types of cookies are involved can help you decide if clearing these files is necessary to keep your personal information private and safe. Otherwise, if your sensitive data falls into the wrong hands, you may be leaving yourself vulnerable to online frauds like identity theft.

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Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. NortonLifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.

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