Taking care of your browser’s cookies

Note: This post applies primarily to Mozilla Firefox.

Most websites like to store little pieces of information, called cookies, on your browser for various purposes. These can be useful, but they can also be harmful. Cleaning your cookies with an add-on like Self-Destructing Cookies or Cookie Monster can protect you.

 

What is a cookie?

A cookie is a piece of data that a website stores on your computer, generally to identify you. When you sign in to your email, Facebook, or any other online account, you’re more than likely getting a cookie to show the website that you’ve logged in as you. Cookies are really useful when used like this.

Unfortunately, some companies use cookies to track your activity all over the internet and use or sell that info for advertising. Google and Facebook are two of the most significant offenders. They make lots of money by using and selling your personal browsing habits without your explicit consent.

 

How can I control my cookies?

The simplest way to control your cookies is to disable them entirely. However, this makes it impossible to log in to most websites. You could also clear your cookies regularly, but this is time-consuming. Fortunately, there are two add-ons for Firefox that make cookie management easy. (Please only install one of these.)

The first add-on is Self-Destructing Cookies. This add-on deletes cookies for any site you don’t have open. For example, you can log in to Gmail, check your messages, and then when you close the tab, Google’s cookies are no longer on your system. This is the easiest worthwhile cookie management add-on available.

The second add-on is Cookie Monster. It’s a little more work to use, but it allows you to choose what sites are allowed to set cookies. You can also easily clear cookies with it.

 

How do I install Self-Destructing Cookies?

You can install SDC from the Self-Destructing Cookies download page on Firefox’s add-on site. Just click the green “Add to Firefox” button. Once installed, SDC will start doing its work automatically. If you don’t want a certain website’s cookies deleted, go to that website, click the green explosion icon, and select “Never.”

 

What about Cookie Monster?

Cookie Monster is also available through its download page on Firefox’s add-on site. Click the “Add to Firefox” button and let it install. You’ll get a blue C icon in your toolbar at the top of your window. This is where you can allow or disallow cookies.

 

How do I use Cookie Monster?

The first thing you’ll want to do is to go into CM’s options, found on your Firefox add-on page through the Firefox menu. Check the “Block all cookies” box.

Now, whenever you want to log in to a website, click on the C icon and select one of the options you see.

  • Temporarily Allow Cookies from [website] will only allow cookies from that website until you close Firefox.
  • Accept Cookies from [website] allows all cookies from the website.
  • Reject Cookies from [website] is the default, and will not allow that site to set any cookies.
  • Accept Session Cookies from [website] will allow cookies, but will delete them when you close Firefox. It’s different from Temporarily Allow in that it will still allow cookies next time you visit the site. You just won’t have your old cookies.

If you hover over “View Cookies” you can see and manually clear all your cookies.

 

 

No matter which add-on you’ve installed, you’re now much more protected against cookie tracking.

 

 

 

Tip of the week:
Always back up everything you want to keep.
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