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Privacy concerns over browser cookies in my system

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / February 3, 2012 8:10 AM PST

Privacy concerns over browser cookies in my system

With all the concerns about privacy that have been in the news lately, it
occurred to me that I have literally hundreds of cookies on my desktop and
laptop computers with no way of knowing where they came from, or any idea
what purpose they serve. Is there a program that will list the file names
of the cookies, show the Web sites they originated from, and describe
their function? I suspect I have at least a few I would prefer to get rid
of. Maybe an overall lesson on what browser cookies are, the purpose they
serve, and if they are dangerous or not? Thanks!

- Submitted by: Don S. in Alabama
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Removing Cookies easily
by Maljudges / February 3, 2012 11:55 AM PST

To remove any cookies and other data collecting files simply do a seach for ccleaner from Piriform and run it, they "cookies" will be gone. Just make sure you set ccleaner up to delete just what you want and you can also give your registry a clean at the same time. This is a widely used program and simple to use.

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GOOGLE and others have other ideas...
by Shazar / February 4, 2012 3:30 AM PST

Using Google as an example (sorry 'bout that), their new privacy policy (Jan 2012) allows you to "opt-out" to over 80 companies that watch your web habits, you assume they are being straight forward but... when you choose "opt-out" an opt-out cookie is placed on the computer. Should you use CCleaner or other means to remove cookies at the end of the session or the end of the day or whatever, those opt-out cookies are removed effectively defaulting to the default "opt-in" status and you're back in to all Google's advertisers' "big-brother" eyes.

Now, if you use the CCleaner's option to retain those certain "opt-out" cookies you might think that you will stay in "opt-out" mode but guess what? Since some of them are perceived as tracking cookies, your anti-virus software (for example Norton 360) will consider it/them a threat and remove it/them with the next scheduled scan no matter what CCleaner does. HELLO! You're back in under Google's watchful eyes again. (You can turn off Norton's tracking cookie removal tool but now all the other evil tracking stuff remains mixed in.)

My point is... if companies are more up-front and honest, they would ONLY have "opt-in" cookies rather than "opt-out" cookies which they know will be removed by anti-virus software, clean-up routines, and unconsciously by the users themselves.

To fast test:
Go to Google's "opt-out" site and opt-out of all companies. Then clear your cookies using whatever system you like. Refresh or return to the Google "opt-out" page and your back to the default "opt-in" status. If you try to retain those "opt-out" cookies using CCleaner's tool but have an anti-virus software package that removes tracking cookies, after the next scheduled scan, you will be back at "opt-in" status again.

Google's link to opt-out:



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by btljooz / February 4, 2012 7:16 AM PST
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by btljooz / February 5, 2012 3:59 AM PST
In reply to: Scroogle

Google's recent changes have evidently interrupted Scroogle yet again. Did Google Screw Scroogle?

Try this way to get to Scroogle Search Then do a search for "Scroogle" to learn more about it.

Another search engine one can use instead of the two top mainstream players that helps preserve privacy is ixquick. Be double sure to click on the green 'private' link. Wink

The point is that there are more than just one or two search engines and there are even search engines out there that don't do as the more mainstream ones do. Some useful info about search engines can be learned from a List of privacy search engines for anonymous Internet search and Search Engine Privacy Tips. Cool

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Yeah but...
by JCitizen / February 10, 2012 4:04 PM PST
In reply to: OK....

To this day, I've never found one that is actually better at finding what I want, than Google; and I try them all the time.

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give other search engines power by stop using google as much
by ChuckJTS-23427222252684036696820606199520 / February 11, 2012 12:38 AM PST
In reply to: Yeah but...

You can actually use an annonymous surfing site to search using google. Some of these sites also sell software for annonymous surfing.

Search on how to 'hide from Google' and search on 'find alternative search engines'.

I deleted my youtube account because it was associated with Google because I have a no tolerance policy over companies that take over my consitutional rights and I've tried calling google and complaining about being spammed and the only way you can get to talk to someone at google is if someone actually sends them a lawsuit.

http://duckduckgo.com/ yields more results than google ever does on searching. Bing isn't bad, yahoo search engine isn't bad and ask.com isn't bad.

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Thanks ChuckJTS...
by JCitizen / February 13, 2012 5:04 AM PST

I do spread it around when I get a chance; sometimes Bing, or Yahoo! can get results. But I've found going to Google first saves me precious time and frustration. I use Scroogle, if I'm researching sensitive projects, and if you can get it to work on a heavy traffic day, or Google is not blocking it:

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support CCCleaner
by geomurray / February 10, 2012 10:17 AM PST

I fully support CCCleaner also. I use it and yes, its simple and you can pick and choose what cookies to keep and what to throw away. I run the program each Friday and it takes care of registry errors at the same time. Some cookies are good and some are bad. As you browse through the cookie list you will recognize of of the programs, you may see ones that go to your bank or another institution. Those you want to keep otherwise each time you go in will have to fill in name, addres etc etc.

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Don't ever trust any registry cleaner
by mail1 / February 10, 2012 11:02 AM PST
In reply to: support CCCleaner

The subject says it all. When you play with the registry, you play with fire. Simple as that. I learned the hard way. I tried many registry cleaners over the years since Windows started using a registry. All have failed, even the big-name ones. Sure, they seem to work okay -- in the short term, but one day, you start the old PC and bam! Your operating system has been fried. Sure as heck. Non-believers, just go ahead and continue playing with your registry. One day, you will believe.

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Actually it is a fact...
by JCitizen / February 10, 2012 4:14 PM PST
In reply to: support CCCleaner

That CCleaner is so effective at removing temporary files, and other crud from errant applications, that it is now under attack by malware coders. Don't let inexperienced posters here fool you. CCleaner can actually defeat some of the most sophisticated malware, such as the Zeus trojan that can inject into the start up folder, even on standard Windows accounts. By simply running CCleaner (properly configured), you can thwart such attacks by cleaning files just before rebooting, shutting down, or logging off.

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Removeing cookies easily
by Vazelina / February 10, 2012 9:56 PM PST

I have tried CCleaner by Piriform with good results,and also Advanced System Care version 5 FREE Grin by 10Bit do the jobb perfect,and both is Free ware you can download from Cnet.com

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by btljooz / February 3, 2012 1:26 PM PST
What are cookies? A cookie is a small piece of information that allows any particular website to communicate with your computer.

Where do cookies come from?
They come from each and every web site you visit. Third party cookies can come from sites that you do not visit but come through them. It is third party cookies that can be the most nefarious.

What purpose do they serve?
They allow websites to communicate with your computer in order to render web pages and allow you to do certain things on them such as logging in, personalizing them to look the way you please, performing financial transactions...everything that you and your computer do to interact with the web page.

Are cookies dangerous?
No and yes. No they are not dangerous to your computer. Yes, they are "dangerous" to your privacy because some cookies are used to track your every move on the internet. For instance, advertisers use them to collect information about you so they can deliver advertising to you that they think will interest you. For more details on this you may choose to read an article on Wikipedia entitled HTTP cookie. It explains in detail some types of cookies, what they do and how they are used.

How to manage cookies? I, personally, keep my computer as devoid of them as possible. I regularly delete them by using CCleaner every evening just before shutting my computer off for the night. Yes this does make it so that I have to remember all my passwords and manually log in to all of my internet accounts but that is a small price to pay for the added security that it affords and the smoother operation of my computer that it allows. All About Cookies has a very good article on managing cookies. You may want to read it. Wink

Unfortunately, I do not know of a program such as you inquire about. That does not mean that one is not in existence. It only means that if there is, I don't know about it. Someone else here may.

I hope this helps. Good Luck and Happy Computing! Grin
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Couldn't have said it much better myself.
by MarkFlax Forum moderator / February 3, 2012 7:59 PM PST
In reply to: Cookies

A good post.

I would add that with CCleaner we do have 'some' control over the cookies. On the CCleaner main window if we go to Options > Cookies, all the cookie files installed on the system will be listed and this gives us some idea which web sites have added cookies to our systems. Also there, we can 'save' the cookies we need to save and then allow CCleaner to delete the rest.


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Thanks for the Reminder
by btljooz / February 4, 2012 1:49 AM PST

Thank you, Mark, for that reminder about CCleaner. Even though I've used CCleaner for many years I've forgotten about that option. Blush A long time ago I just figured "to heck with Cookies" and simply started getting rid of all of them. I guess I'll have to re-acquaint myself with CCleaner's cookie identifying option. LOL!

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Excellent Post Mark as to saving some cookies! Darrell
by Darrell / February 7, 2012 6:00 AM PST
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by rtfgirl / February 10, 2012 9:25 AM PST
In reply to: Cookies

very well put btljooz! there are not a lot of people who realize that cookies can very well be dangerous! the thing that really gets me goin, is microsoft along with so many other companies, while not the inventors of the "cookie" they sure led it to a new level of "Invasion of Privacy!"

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CCleaner can exempt cookies from deletion.
by zammer8 / February 10, 2012 9:28 AM PST
In reply to: Cookies

CCleaner has the "Option" of selecting cookies the user doesn't want deleted, thus preserving passwords and auto login, if the user wants to go that route,

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by neplusultraomni / February 10, 2012 9:44 AM PST
In reply to: Cookies

I agree with the above. Although use of CCleaner may be overkill. You can set your browser to reject any third party cookies and session cookies. First party cookies will be saved so that you don't have to log in all the time. You can delete your entire browsing history every so often if you want to clear everything, including flash cookies. Further, if you're really nervous about cookies, you can set your browser to dump everything when you close your browser. This can be a pain if your browser completely crashes, because you have to log in everything again and your history may be lost so you may not be able to restore your last session (all those open tabs).

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Good advice...
by JCitizen / February 10, 2012 4:41 PM PST
In reply to: Cookies

but some of us will get nothing done, when we need to. If you are lucky enough to always go to perfect sites, that are run by the best webmasters on the internet, that also don't need the dollars for that bottom line, then you got no problems. But some of us don't live in that perfect world, and must accept lower rung cookies to get anything done. It is actually easier to simply run CCleaner every fifteen minutes or so than put up with manually allowing lower rung cookies every time we turn around.

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by mal_aus / February 10, 2012 9:58 AM PST
In reply to: Cookies

Great reply btljooz. I would add to that a quote from an article by Woody Leonard in Windows Secrets which shows how to make your browser do the job :-
Clobber the spying cookies lurking on your PC.
Blocking first-party cookies can break many Web-based applications, <i><b>so
it isn't a great idea</b></i>. Blocking third-party cookies, however, merely
dings the coffers of Google (which owns DoubleClick) and other
information-gathering companies.
By default, Internet Explorer 7
blocks third-party cookies from companies that don't properly post a
particular kind of privacy statement called the Platform for Privacy Preferences
(P3P), an initiative spearheaded by the W3C. That doesn't do much for
you, though. P3P has been roundly criticized by privacy advocates and
the technical press, so it's largely unenforced and is of questionable
value. If you want to block all third-party cookies in <b>Internet
Explorer 7</b>, click Tools, Internet Options, Privacy. Under Settings,
choose the Advanced button (not the Advanced tab). Check the Override
Automatic Cookie Handling option, and under Third-party Cookies select
Block. In Firefox, it's much simpler: click Tools, Options, Privacy. Uncheck Accept third-party cookies. In the current beta of Chrome, click Tools, Options, Under the Hood. Under Cookie settings, choose Restrict how third-party cookies can be used.

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cookie blocking
by travis41 / February 10, 2012 4:50 PM PST
In reply to: Cookies

mal_aus as in 7, IE9 also allows 3rd party blocking 4 CCleaner users in reg. cleaning b careful if u r a novice,but make sure run at startup is checked to remove zeus

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Cookies My experience
by edwardj1 / February 10, 2012 10:03 AM PST
In reply to: Cookies

I delete my cookies every evening by clicking on tools then options then remove all cookies.. does this protect me enough? I also Clear my recent history every evening as well. Is this a protective solution? It certainly doesn't seen so I get spammed over 200 times daily!! Ed H

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by JCitizen / February 10, 2012 4:45 PM PST
In reply to: Cookies My experience

If you don't mind permanent cookies called Zombie files, or otherwise known as "ever cookie" in your computer, then that will do. I only know of one utility that deletes these files, and that is CCleaner. You have to set the check box for the application that is setting those nasty cookies. Adobe is the biggest violator.

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What are Zombie files & ever cookies?
by btljooz / February 11, 2012 5:26 AM PST
In reply to: Depends..

What you are talking about, JC, are "LSOs", short for Local Shared Objects, and are commonly known as "Flash Cookies". That is why LSOs are so commonly confused with Http Cookies once people first learn of their existance. While LSOs are a concern, they are different than the cookies we are talking about here. Learn more on how to properly deal with LSOs from a CNet article entitled "Five ways to avoid being tracked on the Web".

Thank you for bringing up the subject for clarification. Happy

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Thanks for the clarification...
by JCitizen / February 11, 2012 10:51 AM PST

I prefer to simply delete them with CCleaner, as I've found this is the smoothest path to get what I want from internet content. For the uninitiated, let me repeat that Adobe Flash is not the only miscreant in this expanding market.

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Cookies & Spam = 2 different problems
by btljooz / February 11, 2012 5:05 AM PST
In reply to: Cookies My experience

Hi edward,

Cookies and Email spam are two different problems. Email spam is caused by many different things and is a subject for a new question. That said, I strongly suggest that you do a search using the phrase "How to stop spam" to find out more info. Wink

I hope this helps to clarify things for you. Good Luck!

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He may be talking about this.
by JCitizen / February 15, 2012 8:01 AM PST

A person may belong to a site, and have their email on record on that site. If that person clicks on a particular interesting item or advertisement, they might receive an email from that interest or advertiser in reaction to the cookies that are set. This may shock some folks the first time it happens, but when the site has your email, and you check yes on the privacy agreement, they have the right to bomb you every time you click on something at that sight.

I actually welcome this on my particular areas of interest, because I need it; but for the uninitiated, it can be shocking, and I don't blame them! Shocked

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by btljooz / February 15, 2012 1:05 PM PST

But I feel that this, again, is something that one should be able to opt out of if one so chooses. Better yet, would be to have to opt in. And that's why I don't search on the same site that I have my e-mail at unless I have to. And even then I don't do it while logged in!

It should be the choice of the individual as to whether or not they want this stuff hitting their in box. Yes, there are filters, but..... why have to deal with any more spam than is already generated? Say, a person only has the computers at the library to be able to get into their e-mail. The libraries around where I live all put a 1 hour time limit on a person. While being under the gun like that to get in and then out of one's email one really doesn't have the time to waste dealing with extra spam. And that is just one scenario. There are dozens of others where a person just doesn't have the time to waste!

At any rate, one would logically think that advertisers would want to more accurately target those who want their advertisements (the opt in option) rather than just using the shotgun approach that this privacy invading web tracking cr@p does. By having people opt in who are truly interested they should get more for their advertising buck because these people would be more likely to actually lay down the ca$h.

Personally, I don't care how many times I click on a particular type of web site. That doesn't mean I want to be assaulted with advertising ....in any form! ...although I'm quite adept at ignoring it. What that means is that I'm simply researching a subject has caught my interest for the time being. Once I've quenched my thirst for learning about another subject I move on. That doesn't mean that I necessarily want to buy anything concerning that subject, but if I do I will go after it on my own. I don't need to be told what I should buy or when I should buy it. I can make up my own mind!

In addition to which, I ran into an article some time in the past few days that explains that search engines pick different websites for different people who search for the exact same term based upon what they've clicked on in the past. This seems to be ok until one thinks of the ramifications of that. Say a person is a member of a particular belief system. Not only could they be delivered information that they would in deed be interested in, but it is plausible that they could possibly be delivered content that would attempt to sway them away from their original feelings. THINK about THAT! And, yes, the tin foil will only serve bring in the signal stronger! DevilLaughDevil

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I agree for the average user...
by JCitizen / February 15, 2012 3:01 PM PST
In reply to: Maybe...

But in my case, I went in with my eyes wide open. I do a lot of industrial research, and that kind of spam, is not really spam for me. It is badly needed information. So in those cases - I digress from the norm.

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what are cookies
by sunon / February 10, 2012 10:21 AM PST
In reply to: Cookies

the answer to what are cookies was comprehensive and, so far as i know, complete. much of what was covered was old news to me but the refresher was helpful. in addition i learned a few things, in particular, CCleaner.

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