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Online advertising is the most common use of third party cookies. By adding their tags to a page, which may or may not display adverts, advertisers can track a user (or their device) across many of the websites they visit.
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Analytics cookies are probably the most common form of persistent cookies in use today.
However, persistent cookies can also , oddly, have a shorter life span than some session cookies, as they can be coded to be destroyed within a second or two of being set, whereas a session cookie will always last until you close down your browser.