What does an Adware Tracking Cookie do?

K. Wascher

An adware tracking cookie is a text file automatically saved to a computer when a user visits a Web site that allows an advertising company to filter personalized advertisements to the user's web browser based on the user's previous Internet sessions. These types of cookies are particularly useful to Internet advertisers to help generate clicks and facilitate sales. They can also be problematic for the person who has the cookie saved on his computer.

Adware tracking cookies may slow a user.
Adware tracking cookies may slow a user.

The actual cookie is a tiny file that contains bits of data generated from each Web site visited. This information is compiled and used by an advertising company to generate advertisements specific to the user's particular tastes. Every time the user visits a Web site, an adware tracking cookie assigns him an identification (ID) number based on the data collected regarding his internet protocol (IP) location. The cookie will then record the data generated, such as online purchases, the number of visits to particular Web sites, the number of continue pages clicked, and, most important, the particular advertisements clicked.

Though cookies are designed to speed up access to a website, they primarily benefit the marketing aspects of the website itself and not the visitor.
Though cookies are designed to speed up access to a website, they primarily benefit the marketing aspects of the website itself and not the visitor.

Adware tracking is considered a phishing expedition because the cookie collects and relays information to companies that are ready, willing, and equipped to receive these little tidbits on a constant daily basis. While these little files may not cause a computer to shut down, they do have the ability to disrupt Internet browsing speed, regardless of whether the Internet Service Provider (ISP) uses a high-speed digital connection or a dial-up connection.

Various problems surround the adware tracking cookie business because not a great deal can be done about this type of information collection advertising, and the companies that engage in these activities are very well aware of this fact. While some ISPs will use a random IP address log-in system designed to disguise a user's actual location, which helps protect customers from the use of such cookies, not every company does — which leaves customers at risk of adware marketing. Another problem caused by this type of cookie collection advertising is that based upon the keywords generated by the Web sites that users visit, advertisers could possibly send users to adult-oriented or pornographic Web sites and to other sites they may consider distasteful. Perhaps the most dangerous aspect is that if a computer is not protected properly the cookies may be able to collect confidential personal information such as bank account login data or usernames and passwords for other Web sites.

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