What Do Cookies Mean?
Cookies are small pieces of data that get stored on your devices by the browser when you browse a website. Cookies are used as a reliable mechanism that allows the websites to remember crucial information about you that would help them distinguish you from the rest of the customers. These are designed in order to help a website understand the needs, settings, and preferences of a customer and accordingly assist them with security and administrative functions. This is done to make sure the website meets the customers' expectations with their content. These are also used to advertise according to the preferences of the user.
The information that is collected using cookies consists of your browser type, operating system, IP address, your internet service provider, and the activities you engage in while using any website or app. Therefore, through these pieces of information, you are recognized as the same user when you are using an app or between different websites or across different pages of the same website.
So that next time when you visit a website you already have an account on, it can identify you instantly and log you back in. However, sometimes it might not be the website or the first party that uses your cookies, but the advertiser or the third party. The third party may use these cookies to track the various other websites you have accessed. The advertiser can then optimize their ads according to your preferences and interests.
Most of the websites (the legitimate ones) nowadays notify you before using the cookies, and many offer you the option of accepting the cookies or not. The cookies that have been saved may remain on your computer for variable periods ranging from a few minutes to years.
Other types of files or technologies that can be used to collect and store user-related information regarding the use of various websites are pixel tags, web beacons, flash cookies, etc.
What Happens When You Delete Them?
Some people may not want to give different websites their personal information. If you are one of them then you can go to the browser help setting and delete them. The benefit you'll receive is that the advertisers and websites won't be able to use your information for their purposes. And it may also solve a website's performance issues if the cookies are flawed. However, you won't be able to see any ads related to your interests anymore. You'd also need to log in again as your account won't be logged in automatically, and the things saved in your account may not be there.
So, if you don't know much about cookies, you can visit the website allaboutcookies.org and understand how you can manage or delete them. Depending on the type of browser you use, you can use the 'help' or 'settings' option to select which cookies to accept or decline. You can always decline permission to our cookies, but then certain features would become inaccessible to you.