Organic SEO Blog

231-922-9460 • Contact UsFree SEO Site Audit

Monday, January 09, 2012

Cookies Aren’t Safe

First appeared in
Your computer's appetite for cookies would put the Cookie Monster to shame.

Without letting you know, your Internet browser gulps down hundreds of the digital tracking beacons fed to it by the websites you visit, sometimes storing them for months or years, enabling an array of companies you've never heard of to monitor what you do online.

Cookies are not inherently dangerous -- they are a kind of virtual ID card that helps browsers perform a number of online tasks that most users have come to expect: allowing you to stay logged in to your Google (GOOG) or Yahoo (YHOO) email service, or to go from page to page on while filling up your shopping basket with books.

But the useful cookies are far outnumbered by those that serve no other purpose than to keep track of what you do online. They often come from sites you have never visited. This can happen when you open pages that carry embedded advertisements, which are capable of adding cookies to your browser without your permission or knowledge -- and often do.

These tracking cookies allow ad firms to follow you from site to site. Over time, the trail of sites you visit may allow them to build a demographic profile about you that includes your hobbies, place of residence, income level and even health status.

To remove all of your cookies in Internet Explorer 9, open the "Tools" menu at the top of the window and select "Delete Browsing History." Make sure the "Cookies" check-box is selected, and press "Delete." Internet privacy buffs may want to delete the other categories of data as well -- stored passwords, Web histories and temporary Internet files.

You can go a step further and prevent your browser from taking cookies from obscure advertising sites in the future. To do this in Internet Explorer 9, click again on the "Tools" menu and select "Internet Options." Click on the "Privacy" tab at the top of the dialogue box, then press the "Advanced" button (between "Import" and "Default"). Check the "Override automatic cookie handling" box, then check "Block" under "Third Party cookies." Leaving first-party cookies enabled will allow for easier use of Web email and commerce sites.