Saturday, July 01, 2006

Privacy on the Internet Cookie Control

Internet users should be familiar with cookies, those little bits of information that websites leave on your computer. Cookies can contain various kinds of data. For example, your homepage stores your layout preferences in a cookie. Another example, creates cookies that contain the items you viewed while on their website. And, yet another example, Yahoo! saves your password protected webpages (e.g. Yahoo! Mail.) For the most part, cookies are fairly benign but there are net users who are uncomfortable with them. Some people are uneasy with the idea of having their movements on the net being tracked. It is true that many Internet companies build up profiles of users based on their movements on the net. For example, Google is notorious for using cookies to profile users. Google stores information about what search queries were entered and what links a user clicks on from the result page. It is no secret that Google’s largest source of revenue is ads. The same ads you see on the right side of any result page. Relevant ads that Google determined based on your movements on the net. So, for those who don’t want cookies, how can you delete them? Well, in the following paragraphs, I will touch upon some easy ways to delete the cookies you don’t want, while keeping the cookies you do want.

You can view the cookies stored in Internet Explorer fairly easily. Go to Tools > Internet Options > General tab > [Settings] > [View Files]. You can delete the cookies you don’t want by right clicking on the cookie and selecting delete.

For Firefox, go to Tools > Options > Privacy > Cookies > View Cookies. Delete any cookies you don’t want to keep. In addition, under Cookies, you can choose to selective block or allow certain websites to place cookies; default, this option is turned on. You can also choose to allow cookies from the originating site only. A quick and painless way to delete cookies and temporary internet files is to use the “Clear Private Data” feature, which appears on the same tab.

Much like Firefox, in Opera you can quickly delete cookies and temporary internet file by going to Tools > Clear Private Data. Opera has some very advance cookie management. To access it, go to Tools > Advance > Cookies. Opera allows you to accept all cookies, cookies from the originated site only or don’t accept cookies. Opera also adds cookie control under the contextual menu. On any webpage, right click and scroll down to Edit Site Preferences.

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