Ah, Cookies


Tracking cookies

The other day I noticed that I was running out of space on the hard disk of my computer. I went through and removed some programs and moved some data to an external drive to free up some space, but the next day, the space was low again.

I ran my normal cleanup software, CCleaner, SuperAntiSpyware and Malwarebytes and found that I had a huge number of tracking cookies on my computer.

If you don’t know, most every website you visit downloads a small file to your computer, called a cookie. Cookies are set to stay on your computer for a period of time and contain information about the site you’re on. Often times, they will hold your login information to the site so that the next time you visit that site, you’ll automatically be logged in, or your preferences will be recorded and remembered so that you won’t have to reset everything time and again.

Tracking cookies, on the other hand, aren’t good. Websites sometimes allow third parties, such as advertisers and marketers, to also install what’s known tracking cookies on your computer. These cookies send information back to the marketing companies where your preferences are put in a database for future use. They don’t record personal information, such as credit card numbers or passwords but general information about your surfing habits and preferences. What they hope to do is to have the advertisements that you see on a page become advertisements that relate more specifically to you so that you’ll click and buy. The danger comes when that information, which is connected to you, becomes available to others.

So, what to do? You really need the main cookies a site saves because a lot of sites won’t work well unless you accept the cookies. Third party cookies, however, aren’t needed and should be blocked.

There are settings in each of the browsers that allow you to allow the main cookies and block the third party cookies. Here are the instructions to do so for the four main browsers:

Internet Explorer –

  • Open Tools, Internet Options | Privacy, click on the Advanced button.
    • Place a check in “Override automatic cookie handling”.
      Uncheck “Always allow session cookies
    • Set “First Party Cookies” to Accept, set “Third Party Cookies” to Block.

Firefox –

  • At the top of the Firefox window, click on the Firefox button (Tools menu in Windows XP) and then click Options. On the menu bar, click on the Firefox menu and select Preferences…At the top of the Firefox window, click on the Edit menu and select PreferencesAt the top of the Firefox window, click on the Tools menu and select Options…On the menu bar, click on the Firefox menu and select Preferences…At the top of the Firefox window, click on the Edit menu and select Preferences…
  • Select the Privacy panel.
  • Set Firefox will: to Use custom settings for history.
  • Uncheck Accept third-party cookies.

Chrome –

  • Click the wrench icon on the browser toolbar.
    • Select Options (Preferences on Mac and Linux; Settings on Chrome OS).
    • Click the Under the Hood tab.
    • Click Content settings in the “Privacy” section.
    • Click the Cookies tab in the Content Settings dialog that appears:

o   Block only third-party cookies: Select the “Ignore exceptions and block third-party cookies from being set” checkbox. Even if you’ve added a site to the Exceptions list and have chosen to allow its cookies, the site’s third-party cookies won’t be accepted if this checkbox is selected.

Safari –

  • From Safari, select “Safari” in the menu bar, and then select “Preferences”
  • In the Preferences Dialog Box, select the “Security” tab
  • Make sure the “Accept cookies:” setting is set to “Only from sites you navigate to”. You can also set this option to “Never”, but this will prevent many web sites that rely on cookies from working.

Once I removed the tracking cookies from my computer, I actually recovered almost 200 GB of disk space. I then went through each of my browsers and blocked third party cookies from being installed.

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3 Responses

  1. What I really like about this blog is the information I find that I already knew . . . BUT FORGOT!

    After installing a new browser or installing a new computer these things tend to be overlooked. These articles serve as great wake-up calls to check and recheck those things that can cause much frustration later.

    Thanks,
    Don

  2. Thanks for the reminder. Mine’s cleaned up some.

    Only change for Safari is that once I went to “Preferences,” I found the Cookies filter under “Privacy” instead of “Security.”

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