WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — Plenty of consumers’ personal information is susceptible to bad actors, especially online. Even for the good guys, what consumers view and buy is often tracked and traced.

Online cookies are files that capture web activity and can help store log-in information for frequently visited websites. They also allow advertisements to appear that consumers may find interesting.

On the flip side, cookies could be unsecured and risky if consumers allow websites to collect them

“The cookies aren’t going to put a virus on your computer, but they can give me access to maybe your bank account or they could give me access to your Instagram and your Facebook,” said Reginald Bullock II, a technical advisor who has worked as a federal contractor with agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Commerce and the National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency.

Choosing to accept cookies comes down to personal comfort about how much of consumers’ online activity is tracked.

A 2021 survey by Statista indicated nearly 32% of adults said they always accept cookie collection when they go online; adults that did so the most aged between 25 to 34 years old.

Adults least likely to accept cookie collection aged between 45 and 54 years old.

In a domestic advertising industry that grossed $365.9 billion in revenue, according to Statista, Bullock said consumers have options to opt out of cookie data collection.

“In your [online search tool] privacy setting, there’s going to be a section that you can delete cookies,” Bullock said, adding that consumers can choose to delete “for the past four weeks 24 hours, there’s one for all time. So just make it a monthly habit at the end of the month, just reconcile.”

Users can also enter online search windows where information is not collected, like Google Chrome’s incognito mode or iPhone’s Safari application that offers private mode.

However, users can also customize what kind of cookies they wish to be collected and to be blocked.