Cookies and Internet Privacy

What is a Cookie?

“Netscape's Client Side State definition:Cookies are a general mechanism which server side connections (such as CGI scripts) can use to both store and retrieve information on the client side of the connection. The addition of a simple, persistent, client-side state significantly extends the capabilities of Web-based client/server applications.”Kington, Andy, Andy’s HTTP Cookie Notes, Available from [modified 6 June 1997, cited 14 March, 1999]

In English, this means that webservers can create web pages that will customize from user to user. By saving these preferences on your computer, the web page can reload appearing to your chosen options. This is accomplished by retrieving the cookie, through your browser, when you access the web page.
Where cookies and privacy clash

The problem with privacy begins with the cookie revealing personal information that you do not wish to be available.

“Your browser is probably revealing more than you might want: which computer you are coming from, what software and hardware you are using, details of the link you clicked on, and possibly even your email address.”
Junkbusters, How Web Servers' Cookies Threaten Your Privacy, [Online], Available from, [written 11 December, 1998, cited 14 March, 1999]

By receiving this information, the webservers could sell it as part of an advertising database resulting in both electronic and paper junk mail. Legislative action has been enacted to curtail the illegal use of personal information.

"The WWW offers a wide variety of communication, information and interaction. Cookies provide for necessary customization. But the Internet is not outside the law. Existing regulations, targeted at protecting personal information, limit the use and application of cookies. Current cookie usage violates such norms. Content providers...

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