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Massachusetts Division of Insurance          
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OPRA requires the use of cookies.  So, what are Cookies?

A cookie is a piece of information in the form of a very small text file that is placed on an Internet user's hard drive. It is generated by a web server, which is basically the computer that operates a web site. The information the cookie contains is set by the server and it can be used by that server whenever the user visits the site. A cookie can be thought of as an Internet user's unique identification card, which tells a web site when the user has returned.

Cookies make the interaction between users and web sites faster and easier. Without cookies, it would be difficult for a web site to remember the user's preferences or registration details for a future visit. Web sites use cookies mainly because they save time and make the browsing experience more efficient and enjoyable.  

Depending on your browser type, you may be alerted when a site is about to set a cookie on your hard drive. If notified of the cookie installation you may accept or reject the cookie.

There are two main types of cookies: Temporary and Permanent

Temporary Cookies are stored in the computer's memory only during a user's browsing session and are automatically deleted from the user's computer when the browser is closed.  Temporary cookies are typically used as a means of communication between web pages.  For example, OPRA stores your company name in a temporary cookie so it can be easily passed from page to page.

Permanent Cookies are stored on the user's computer and are not deleted when the browser is closed.  Permanent cookies can retain user preferences for a particular web site, allowing those preferences to be used in future browsing sessions.  The OPRA website currently does not use any permanent cookies.  

Are cookies dangerous?

No. Cookies are small pieces of text. They are not computer programs, and they can't be executed.  Also, they cannot be used to disseminate viruses.

Can cookies threaten users' privacy?

Cookies are stored on the computer's hard drive. They cannot access the hard drive - so a cookie can't read other information saved on the hard drive, or get a user's e-mail address etc.  

History of cookies

Cookies for the internet were originally developed in 1995 by the Netscape Communications Corporation. The word "cookie" comes from "magic cookie," a computer science term for a piece of information shared between co-operating pieces of software.   So where does "magic cookie" come from?  Some say it comes from the computer games of the late 80's & early 90's.  Eating Magic Cookies in the game would give the player special powers.

How are Cookies Enabled and Disabled?

To enable/disable the cookies or the alerts in Internet Explorer 6.x on a PC:

  1. Open Internet Explorer
  2. Select the TOOLS menu and then click INTERNET OPTIONS
  3. Select the PRIVACY Tab
  4. Move the slider up or down depending upon the desired level of security you would like
  5. You may also click the ADVANCED button and select how cookies are handled from the presented options

To enable/disable the cookies or the alerts in Internet Explorer 5.x on a PC:

  1. Open Internet Explorer
  2. Select the TOOLS menu and then click INTERNET OPTIONS
  3. Select the Security Tab then click the button labeled CUSTOM LEVEL
  4. Scroll down to COOKIES and select the desired level of security from the presented options

To enable/disable the cookies or the alerts in Internet Explorer 5.x on a MAC:

  1. Open INTERNET EXPLORER
  2. Click EDIT and select the PREFERENCES option
  3. Under the RECEIVING FILES option, select COOKIES
  4. Next to "When receiving cookies:" select the desired level of cookie acceptance
  5. Click OK to finish

To enable/disable the cookies or the alerts in Netscape 7.x on a PC:

  1. Open NETSCAPE
  2. Click EDIT and select the PREFERENCES option
  3. Click on PRIVACY & SECURITY then select COOKIES.
  4. Select ENABLE COOKIES BASED ON PRIVACY SETTINGS then click VIEW
  5. Select MEDIUM and click OK to finish