Deslea R. Judd (deslea) wrote in glitterjournal,
Deslea R. Judd

Cookies: What You Need To Know

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DISCLAIMER: This document is not an official LiveJournal document! It is a resource document maintained by an fellow user. The original source of information is noted, where applicable. LiveJournal takes no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

What You Need To Know About Cookies

What are cookies?

Cookies are small text files that contain information relevant to a particular site. This might be information such as your username, the fact that you're logged in, the merchandise you've added to your shopping cart, your account number, or other information. Only the site that creates a particular cookie can view it - so, LiveJournal can retrieve LiveJournal cookies, but it can't retrieve your Amazon cookies.

Are they an invasion of privacy?

Generally, no. Contrary to popular belief, cookies cannot be used to store your entire browsing history. Apart from anything else, a cookie can only store 4000 characters. They also cannot be used to obtain information that you didn't give the site in the first place. So for instance, an advertising banner service might call you User 9176413, and use cookies to track where you see their banners (ie, that you saw them at both Yahoo and the New York Times). However, they have no way of knowing that User 9176413 is Jane Smith from Astoria, Oregon. In fact, this use of cookies is not only fairly harmless, it's also comparatively rare. The vast majority of cookies are meant to make it easier for you to use the sites you want to visit.

Why are they used?

When you use a messageboard, bulletin board, Google Groups, Yahoo Groups, or any service at which you have some kind of user account that confers privileges not available to people who don't have accounts, your privileges are available to you because of cookies. When you log in, the site puts a file on your system that says you're logged in and that you are User 9764 (or whatever). Then, whenever you try to do something that only a user (or only User 9764) is allowed to do, the site checks that file to be sure you're allowed to do it.

Why does LiveJournal use cookies?

LiveJournal uses cookies to keep track of whether or not you are logged in. LiveJournal sets a cookie when you log in that says that you're logged in. When you log out, it sets the expiry date in the past (effectively deleting it). LiveJournal also uses cookies to keep track of things like what language the site should be displayed for you.

Why have I been asked to delete my cookies?

For some reason, a LiveJournal cookie is causing or compounding a problem. For instance, you may have deleted your account and remained logged in under the deleted username, and this may cause problems with logging in under a different username later. Usually the cookie itself is not the problem, but the cookie in combination with another unusual situation is creating a difficulty. In this situation it may be helpful to go into the cookie files and delete cookies manually.

How do I do it?

There are two ways of doing it. You can manually delete just the problem cookie, or you can delete all your cookies.

Many online guides will tell you to delete all your cookies in the event of cookie-related problems. They say this because it's a simple thing to do. However, you should be aware that doing this will effectively log you out of all your regular haunts. If there is any service you use regularly for which you do not have a record of your username and password, it would be a bad idea to delete all your cookies. At the very least, you should go to those sites, make sure they have your current email address, and have them send you your password prior to deleting your cookies.

Alternatively, you can just delete LiveJournal cookies. This takes a couple of extra steps, but those extra steps may well be worth the trouble.

Specific instructions for deleting your cookies vary from browser to browser. I have instructions available for the browsers listed below. If your browser is not listed, you might like to try searching your favourite search engine for [browser name]+[operating system]+cookie+delete.

Many thanks to mortaine and xenofalcon, who have added their knowledge of Linux browsers, and rahaeli who looked over these documents.

Deleting Cookies: Windows: Internet Explorer
Deleting Cookies: Windows: Netscape
Deleting Cookies: Windows: AOL
Deleting Cookies: Windows: Opera and Mozilla
Deleting Cookies: Macintosh: Internet Explorer, Netscape and Opera
Deleting Cookies: Linux: Mozilla .9.9 and 1.01, by Mortaine
Deleting Cookies: Linux: Galeon 1.2, by Xenofalcon

Last Updated: 23 December, 2002
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