They keep the square-wave data signals from leaking RF spectrum energy all over the place. Square waves have almost infinite noise bandwidth, and will cause interference to all your nearby radios and TVs.
A lack of ferrites might indicate that they have sufficient shielding to prevent interference, or that they are "clean" enough to meet some FCC Part-15 specs (but, could still interfere to some extent), but I wouldn't trust it. Ferrites are pretty cheap to make, anyway....good insurance.
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