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Home > Cookies

What about cookies?

Cookies are a very important method for maintaining state on the Web. "State" in this case refers to an application's ability to work interactively with a user, remembering all data since the application started, and differentiating between users and their individual data sets.

A good analogy would be a laundry cleaner's shop. You drop something off, and get a ticket. When you return with the ticket, you get your clothes back. If you don't have the ticket, then the laundry man doesn't know which clothes are yours. In fact, he won't be able to tell whether you are there to pick up clothes, or a brand new customer. As such, the ticket is critical to maintaining state between you and the laundry man.

Unfortunately, HTTP is a "stateless" protocol. This means that each visit to a site (or even clicks within a site) is seen by the server as the first visit by the user. In essence, the server "forgets" everything after each request, unless it can somehow mark a visitor (that is, hand him a "laundry ticket") to help it remember. Cookies can accomplish this.

Cookies have brought personalization, commerce, and convenience to the internet, legitimizing it as a place for business.

What is a cookie?
A cookie is a text-only string that gets entered into the memory of your browser and can be stored on your computer.

Why do sites use cookies?
There are many reasons a given site would wish to use cookies. These range from the ability to personalize information (like on My Yahoo or Excite), or to help with on-line sales/services (like on Amazon Books or eBay). Cookies also provide programmers with a quick and convenient means of keeping site content fresh and relevant to the user's interests. The newest servers use cookies to help with back-end interaction as well, which can improve the utility of a site by being able to securely store any personal data that the user has shared with a site (to help with quick logins on your favorite sites, for example).

Cookies and StampFrancisco.com
Our site does use cookies to keep track of what you put into your shopping cart and to use features like your wish list and your gift registry and the number of rubber stamps you want to display per page.

While our site can be used without cookies as long as you browse the shopping and art gallery sections, they significantly add to the shopping experience and we suggest, at least while on our site, you keep them turned on.

Are cookies a threat to my privacy?
The sad truth is that revealing any kind of personal information opens the door for that information to be spread.

Consider the growing trend of technology conveniences in our lives. We use "frequent buyer" cards at supermarkets and gas stations. We place electronic tags on our cars to pay tolls faster and easier. We let banks pay our bills for us automatically each month without checks.

While each of these technologies (and others like them) have made our lives more convenient, each time we use them exposes us to a loss of privacy. Stores know what foods you eat. Gas stations know how much you spend on gas per fill-up. Turnpike operators know how fast you drive on their highways. Banks know how you spend your money each month.

It's the same with cookies. In fact, one may argue that cookies in the long-run will be less damaging to privacy efforts than those technologies described above. If you're going to single-out cookies as your sole vulnerability to personal privacy, you should re-examine how you live your daily life.



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