There’s really only one kind of "bad" cookie—the ones full of sugar.

Internet cookies are neutral—not good but also not bad—they’re simply a part of how the Internet operates. It’s like money, it's not inherently good or bad, it’s how it’s used that matters. So we should think in terms of how Internet cookies are used.

You click on a web page. On that page are JavaScript programs that you can’t see. Their job is to track the user’s browsing habits. In the past, this tracking was done with the cookies. Cookies would be on the hard drive as strings of text, placed there by websites under the guise of improving user experience.

However, this process was abused and got the attention of data-protection law. Plus, users would delete cookies, reducing their effectiveness.

New ways of tracking evolved, such as the Adobe Flash plug-in. These Flash cookies cannot be viewed or deleted by the user. Users don’t even know when these cookies are set. Flash cookies do everything that the old cookies do. But if you click on a page that has a Flash application, the cookies can be stored or retrieved. Flash cookies are on nearly every web page.

Another way of tracking is something called tokens, and some businesses use these. Companies may also use unique forms of pattern matching, all for the purpose of identifying the computers that are accessing their sites.

But this technology, despite its ability to identify the user’s computer, isn’t a gateway to identity theft or any other harm. Nevertheless, concerns continue to exist regarding privacy, and the Obama administration is even getting involved. Thus, there will surely be new standards arising in the next couple of years.

Cookies, in and of themselves, are benign, but many people do see a potential for a less-than-benign use of this technology. Internet users, the government and business need to fully understand good vs. bad cookies—or, to put it more accurately, the use and misuse of cookies. A balance must be struck between giving all kinds of users more privacy without making them more vulnerable to fraud.