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Online Awareness:
Tracking Activities within a Site

Ever wonder how a Web site, such as, can greet you—"Hello, Jane Smith. We have recommendations for you."—each time you visit the site? Here's how:

image of a plate of 3 cookies with a jug of milk in the background

Cookies! But not the kind you eat. When you visit some Web sites, the Web server sends a small piece of information, called a cookie to your Web browser. The next time you visit the site, the Web server reads the cookie file it has placed on your browser so it can recognize who you are. If you've ever clicked Accept on a message like the one pictured below, you've enabled cookies. 

Example of a website cookie policy
The information stored in a cookie file can be used for a number of things:
  • to store the password and user ID you submitted for the site,
  • to remember the options you have selected at the site (e.g., which pages you want to  look at first at that site), and
  • to track your movements at the site.

Generally speaking, the information stored by a cookie is used for your personal convenience. However, some Web sites, especially commercial sites, use the tracking information for marketing purposes. These sites build up a profile of where you go and what advertisements you click on, so the next time you visit the site, you are shown products specifically targeted to your interests.
Chapter 9 — Page 11