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Tracking cookies and how to delete them

18 Dec 2007
 by Cristina Mailat | in: Security

Cookies, not so long ago they were something we ate, a delicious snack. Now it’s a term for files that arrive on your computer when you surf the web. Computers are filled with both good and bad cookies. A common bad cookie is known as the tracking cookie. It is important to detect tracking cookies and remove tracking cookies from your computer as soon as possible. For a smooth and hassle free removal of these bad guys, use the Ad-Aware software.

The use of the internet has skyrocketed, and with the increased usage comes increased concerns about privacy. These concerns are fueled by what we hear on the news, and read in the paper. The fear is real, but for many there is no understanding of how the web works and what kind of tracking is possible with these cookies.

What are tracking cookies?

Most of us have heard the term HTTP. This stands for hypertext transfer protocol, and this is what makes it possible for different computers to talk to each other on the web. If the site you are visiting uses cookies the HTTP header will tell your browser what information it needs to be placed in the cookie. Your browser adds this cookie to the many other cookies which already reside on your computer.

Each time you visit a site, your browser checks the existing cookies on your system. If you already have a cookie for that site it will use that cookie. If you do not have an existing cookie it creates a new one based on the HTTP instructions it is given. This process happens so fast you are never aware it is occurring.

Most claim that they use cookies so they can personalize their website to your tastes and needs. However the real truth is tracking cookies are mainly used to target advertising. Targeted advertising attempts to match the product with the consumer that is most likely to purchase that product.

There are many online advertising companies, but doubleclick is by far the biggest. Even if you have never heard of them, there is a good chance that you have a cookie on your computer from DoubleClick. Cookies you receive from sites you’ve never been to are called third party cookies. These are usually a type of tracking cookie.

Doubleclick isn’t the only one placing tracking cookies on your computer, they just happen to be the one doing a billion dollar a year business. They are used by many companies.

Any time you visit a website by clicking on a link, the information is recorded, in an attempt to create online profiles about your interests. Lycos, AltaVista, and Infoseek, all use cookies to record what terms a user searches for.

Privacy has become an increasing concern, as more and more websites use tracking cookies to build market profiles. In fact it has become such a big concern that the FTC has been forced to begin to address the issue with new legislation.

Online businesses argue that profiling does not invade the individuals privacy rights because there is no personal information attached to the tracking. Only your likes and dislikes, and your buying habits are tracked. However, this has been proven incorrect. Online businesses are able to attach your personal information to the profiling information.

Initially browsers were able to block these tracking cookies but the advertisers were quick to overcome this obstacle. Sometimes we very willingly give out personal information online. For example if we are placing an order at a major department store or our favorite online bookstore, we will need to provide our personal information such as name, address, and credit card number, so that they can process our order. The problem is the consumer never knows if their information is sold to another website. We’ve all experienced it to some degree. You purchase something online and next thing you know you are receiving email or snail mail for similar products, yet you’ve never visited their site or shopped with them before.

How to remove the tracking cookies?

There are bills being passed that address how your information is collected, and what can be done with it. The government has new laws to control this type of tracking, but who is going to enforce these new laws? Rather than relying on the government to protect you, I would recommend you take action to protect yourself.

The best solution to keeping your information safe is to use Ad-Aware. It will automatically block and delete cookies that pose a threat to your privacy. You can configure the software to allow cookies from certain sites, or block all cookies. There is plenty of flexibility in the set up. It’s like having your own internet police 24 hours a day.

Published: 18 Dec 2007  by Cristina Mailat, in: Security Tags: , , RSS feed for comments on this post.

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