12/30/2011

Holiday cookies

There are lots of things to over indulge in during the holiday season including late nights, fatty food and sweets. Most people don't think twice about the number of internet cookies they get into their system, though. In fact a lot of people don't even know what a cookie is or how it is used. Lets get that part out of the way first.

What is a cookie, anyway?

A cookie is just a small piece of text stored on your computer. It cannot gather data or crash your hard drive. It is just a short bit of text that a website sends to a browser like Firefox or Safari. That browser then stores that little bit of text for later. When you go back to the site, it will ask the browser to look up any cookies they might have sent you. The browser then sends the same text back to that site. So why do browsers do this? Well, look at what a cookie contains. Here's an example- ID=195AY2 www.website.com. In this cookie, the site just wants to be able to know that it's YOU coming back and not Joe Shmoe. That way they can say "Oh, hey Ben! Here are some new books we think you'd really enjoy." It makes the internet far more personal. Internet banking and online shopping depend on also cookies to function.

As with everything, there is an evil side to cookies. You don't necessarily want everyone knowing who you are all the time. You may not want Nike (for example) sharing your ID with Facebook to increase advertising revenue. It really comes down to an invasion of privacy. So what do you do? You may only want to get rid of cookies from a few websites you don't trust. Or you may want to delete all of your cookies and just start fresh.

A word of caution here... Don't delete all of your cookies unless you know the username and password to all of the websites you visit. If you go to a site that "just lets you in" it may use a cookie to do so. Erasing all of your cookies may prompt the site to ask you for your username and password. If you don't know them, you may be in for a few headaches!

Here is a list of three browsers and how you can delete the cookies you may have picked up during the holidays.












Chrome

Click on the little wrench on the upper right hand side of the browser. Go down to "Tools".  Next click on "Clear browser data". You'll be given the option to clear your history, cookies, passwords and the like. You'll also be given the option to erase the information from the last hour, day, week, month or the beginning of time.







Firefox
In the top tool bar, click on "Tools" then "Clear recent history".  From there, choose wich cookies you'd like to delete. Read this excellent tutorial for more.







Safari
This is the easiest browser to delete cookies from. Click on Safari, then go to Preferences. Go to the privacy tab. There you'll see how many cookies you have. Click on the "Details" button.






You'll see this window pop up.



Notice two things. You have the ability to remove ALL of the cookies if you want. Do this with caution. You'll also see a search bar at top. There, you can search for cookies from specific sites.




Here, I've found a cookie from Facebook. To delete it, you could just hit "remove all" or you could choose the cookies you want to get rid of and hit "remove". You'll need to hit "done" when you are finished getting rid of the cookies you don't want.