Life is full of necessary evils which we cannot fully control. If you use the internet you are going to be tracked and one of the most ubiquitous tracking methods is the cookie. Or, more specifically known as the HTTP cookie.
An HTTP cookie, web cookie, or browser cookie, is a small piece of data sent from a website and stored in a user’s web browser while the user is browsing that website. Every time the user loads the website, the browser sends the cookie back to the server to notify the website of the user’s previous activity.
In other words, while you’re browsing around the inter webs the cookie is tracking you. Or, rather dozens or hundreds if not thousands of cookies are tracking your movements online. Open Safari’s Preferences, then click on the Privacy tab to view the cookie Details. It’s downright scary the number of websites which track you. Worse, it’s not just websites. It’s advertisers on websites.
Although cookies cannot carry viruses, and cannot install malware on the host computer, tracking cookies and especially third-party tracking cookies are commonly used as ways to compile long-term records of individuals’ browsing histories—a potential privacy concern that prompted European and U.S. law makers to take action in 2011. Cookies can also store passwords and form content a user has previously entered, such as a credit card number or an address.
See a problem there?
Cookies are a necessary evil and they’re not going away. But they can be controlled. For my Macs– all of them– I use an indispensable app which is cleverly titled Cookie. All it does is delete cookies from your browsers. Not just Safari. It can delete cookies for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera; which covers about 99.9-percent of Mac browser users.
Cookie’s configuration seems daunting at first as there are plenty of options. Click on Preferences and select everything as in the screenshot above. I also click the Hide Dock Icon button, and the Remove– On Quit button.
Cookie can be configured to remove unwanted browser cookies every so many minutes, too. It’s smart enough to allow certain cookies for certain sites, allow some database storage on your Mac from some sites, and it can kill Flash and Silverlight cookies which are even worse than standard browser HTTP cookies.
Cookies are mostly necessary for browsing the web and visiting websites, but there’s no requirement to keep cookies around, just so Google and Amazon and Apple and others can view your web surfing habits.
Cookie kills cookies. Once it’s setup it just works. Highly recommended and worth the more than 600 four and five star reviews.
Here’s how I use Cookie. The settings may seem to be somewhat overwhelming but I prefer to keep it simple. So, I set Cookie to delete all stored cookies when the app itself quits at the end of the day, when the browser quits, and at login. Yes, that’s three times, but it’s automatic. Each new browser session starts with not cookies, no Flash cookies, no Silverlight cookies (do those still exist?), and no web browser databases.
For the paranoid there’s a setting to Secure Delete Data, just in case Chinese or North Korean hackers, or U.S. government snoops are watching what you’re watching online.