How often should you delete cookies? The answer might surprise you

·3-min read

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Practically every website you visit right now will ask if they can give you cookies. (Photo: Getty)
Practically every website you visit right now will ask if they can give you cookies. (Photo: Getty)

Cookies are an inevitable part of being online. And, while websites giving you cookies is nothing new, you've probably noticed that practically every website you visit right now will ask if they can give you cookies. With that, it's only natural to wonder how often you should delete cookies from your devices.

All those cookies questions are thanks to a European data protection and privacy law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Previously, websites could share or sell your so-called "cookie persona" to other companies without your permission, and the GDPR recognized that could be considered an invasion of privacy. So, now websites ask if they can give you cookies before they actually do it. 

But it's understandable that you might be a little wary of all those cookies you're gathering online and, again, how often you should delete them. 

There's one quick and easy way to delete cookies that track you online: You can download software like McAfee Multi Access, which automatically deletes cookies and temporary files from your computer for you. The software also blocks viruses, malware, spyware and ransomware attacks to help protect your computer while you're out there doing what you do online.

Try McAfee Multi Access for 30 days free. After that, it's $4.99 per month.

It's understandable if you're a little wary of all those cookies you're gathering online and wondering how often you should delete them. (Photo: Getty)
It's understandable if you're a little wary of all those cookies you're gathering online and wondering how often you should delete them. (Photo: Getty)

Of course, you might be a little confused about what cookies are and whether you actually want them on your computer in the first place. Here's what you need to know.

What are cookies, again?

Cookies are one or several small pieces of data that identify your computer to a website, Joseph Steinberg, cybersecurity expert and emerging technologies advisor, tells Yahoo Life. Those cookies are set by a website's server to your device when you visit that website (after you give the OK, naturally). 

There are two types of cookies, Steinberg explains: "Session" cookies, which expire after you click off of a website and "persistent" cookies, which track you across several different sessions. Session cookies will automatically go away, but persistent cookies can stick around for a while.

Cookies are used by websites to tailor content to your personal preferences and by marketing companies to try to target ads directly to you, tech and cybersecurity expert Chuck Brooks, president of Brooks Consulting International, tells Yahoo Life. They can also allow you to click between pages on a website without having to log in or verify your identity on each page, Steinberg says. 

If you just use your computer to do things like watch online videos and read the news, you're probably OK to delete cookies whenever you feel like it. (Photo: Getty)
If you just use your computer to do things like watch online videos and read the news, you're probably OK to delete cookies whenever you feel like it. (Photo: Getty)

So, how often should you delete cookies?

It depends. If you just use your computer to do things like watch online videos and read the news, you're probably OK to delete cookies whenever the mood strikes, Steinberg says. But, if you use your computer to do "sensitive tasks" such as online banking or investments and don't want to be tracked when you're using your computer, Steinberg says that "blocking and clearing cookies might make sense."

In general, Brooks says that it's a good idea to review your cookie permissions "as often as you can." There's no exact timeframe for how often you should do this, he says. But, he adds, "It is prudent to do it as often as you can to stay safe."

Wondering whether you'll actually remember to clean out your cookies regularly? Consider getting software like McAfee Multi Access. It will help clean out your cookies for you, so you can just focus on browsing online.

Shop it: McAfee Multi Access, 30-day free trial then $4.99 a month, subscriptions.yahoo.com

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