The Truth About Internet Cookies

Sep
2013
27

posted by on Internet Safety, Online Privacy, Online Safety, Online Security, Security Online

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cookieUSA Today broke the story Google is developing AdID for its Chrome browser. AdID is an anonymous identifier that will replace cookies that websites place on users’ computers to gather information about their browsing habits. The service would offer higher privacy and safety to Internet users, which is what parents are always looking for. Here’s a breakdown of important info to know.

What Is a Cookie?

You can thank cookies for making your surfing experience easier each time you return to a website. They remember your preferred language, your user information, passwords, and other information. Temporary cookies are used for activities such as online shopping. While you’re adding items to your shopping cart, the e-commerce site uses the cookie to keep your items loaded as long as you are on the site. If you leave the site without completing your purchase, eventually that cookie expires, and your stuff is gone.

An accumulation of cookies and browsing history can slow down your computer’s performance. According to www.InternetProviders.com, a monthly hard drive cleaning will also improve its speed.

Permanent Cookies

Web developers place these on your computer so each time you visit, you receive a personal greeting. They’re also used to gather marketing information about how you use the Internet. Most are text files that remember your data, and they do not gather information about you.

Tracking Cookies

These little sweeties are tied to your IP address (every computer and smart device as a unique one) and log your activities online. Most of this data is used for marketers, which explains why parents of babies and toddlers see ads for Gymboree, Huggies and Zulily’s baby store. Some people adopt the attitude, “As long as you’re going to try to sell me stuff, sell what I am interested in,” while others see tracking cookies as invasions of privacy and threats to cybersecurity.

USA Today’s unnamed source doesn’t say how Google’s AdID will work, only that the company will replace third-party cookies and give consumers more privacy and control over how their information is retrieved and used.

The Computer Cookie Diet

Regardless of Google’s policies, parents can control cookie usage and protect their families’ security and privacy by changing the settings in their browsers’ preferences. Cookie settings depend on the browser you use.

  • Chrome

Clear cookies from Chrome: Chrome settings button >> Show Advanced Settings >> Clear Browsing Data >> Select the files you want to erase

View Chrome cookies: Chrome settings button >> Show Advanced Settings >> Content Settings… >> All cookies and site data >> Scroll through the hundreds of cookies you’ve accumulated, and manually delete them one at a time

Prevent Chrome cookies: Chrome settings button >> Show Advanced Settings >> Privacy >> Content settings >> Select the level of cookies you want to block, and set up exceptions

Go incognito in Chrome: Chrome settings button >> New incognito window >> Allows you to browse with no information recorded, and all new cookies are deleted when you close the incognito window

  • Firefox

Clear cookies from Firefox: Tools >> Clear All History >> Select the items to erase

View Firefox cookies: Firefox >> Preferences >> Privacy >> Remove individual cookies >> Delete one at a time

Prevent Firefox cookies: Firefox >> Preferences >> Privacy >> Tell websites I do not want to be tracked

Private browsing in Firefox: Tools >> Start Private Browsing

  • Safari

Clear cookies from Safari: Safari >> Preferences >> Privacy >> Remove all website data

View Safari cookies: Same as above, then select >> Details and manually delete cooks

Prevent cookies on Safari: Same as above, but select >> Block cookies “always” or “from third parties”

Go stealth in Safari: Safari >> Private Browsing

Are Cookies Bad?

Yes and no, but mostly no. The FTC says a regular clean-up of your hard drive is smart. It also suggests keeping browsers updated, because updates protect you from malware. If you wipe out all cookies, you’ll likely have to re-enter passwords and user information for all the sites you regularly visit. Cookies enhance the user experience by tailoring advertising to the users’ interests. No more cookies means happily married couples might start seeing popular ads for online dating sites, which can be very annoying.

Google’s rumored AdID applies only to Chrome users, but with its 52-plus percent market share, according to w3schools.com, expect Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, and other browsers to follow suit.

Just because you select the option to prevent cookies does not guarantee you’ll not receive them. The setting sends a request to companies that asks them not to cookie your computer. It might honor that request, or write algorithms to circumvent your request.

This one-minute video shows how to remove browser history from Google Chrome.

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