A Guide to Web Cookies: What are Cookies, and How to Clear or Block Browser Cookies

Internet Cookie Monster Sesame Street

What are Web Cookies?

Cookies. Mmmm. It’s one of those cute names we give things that aren’t so cute, like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I’m not talking about ways to load up on calories; no, I’m talking about those little files that get put on your computer when you visit a website.  There are different types of browser cookies on the internet that you should know about, since, after all, they are on your computer.

 

What are the types of browser cookies?

 

Session Cookies

A session cookie is put onto your computer when you are logged onto a website.  From the time you log on until the time you log off is called a session.

 

Persistent Cookies

After a website puts a persistent cookie on your computer it can remember if you have been there before. Generally, you have to manually remove these from your computer.

 

Whose Party is it Anyway?

The first party is the website, the second party is you, and the third party is a company that asks the first party to put a cookie on your computer.

 

LSOs / Flash Cookies

Local Shared Object (LSO), also known as a flash cookie, are cookies that stay on your computer even after you clear your cookies from your computer.

 

HTTP Only Cookies

These are cookies that are used only when transmitting a HTTP request, so that other non-HTTP technologies such as javascript and APIs of other websites cannot use the cookie to manipulate your computer.

 

Zombie Cookie

This is a cookie that can recreate itself after it is deleted. Scary!

 

How to Use, Manage and Clear Browser Cookies

Although many browser cookies provide some benefit to your online experience, others can be used as spyware or malware.  If you don’t like cookies on your computer tacking your activity, there are a few steps you can take:

 

Step #1: Opt-out of Advertising Cookies

Visit the Networking Advertising Initiative and Opt-Out of Behavioral Advertising.

 

Step #2: Clear Browser Cookies or Adjust Browser Settings

Depending on what type of computer and browser you are using, there are different steps to clearing your cookies. Most browsers have a “Tools” section where you can find a way to manage your privacy settings and clear cookies:

  • How to clear browser cookies in Internet Explorer:

On the top menu bar look for Tools >>  Internet Options >>  Browsing History >> Delete. From there you can choose what you want to remove from you computer.  If you are in IE9 and cannot find the menu bar, look for the gear in the top right corner.

  • How to clear browser cookies in Firefox:

On the top menu bar look for Tools >>Clear Recent History. From there you can choose what you want to remove from you computer.

  • How to clear browser cookies in Chrome:

In the top right corner look for the wrench icon >> Tools >> Clear Browsing Data. From there you can choose what you want to remove from your computer.

  • How to clear browser cookies in Safari:

On the top menu bar, look for Safari  >> Empty Cache.

Each of these browsers have security options that will allow you to permit or restrict cookies on your computer. Some of the browsers will give you the option to allow first-party cookies but not third-party cookies, which might be a good choice to maintain performance on some websites which use a session cookie.

 

Step #3: Adjust Your Browser’s Flash Settings

Visit the Adobe Website to learn more about how to adjust your browser’s Flash settings.

 

Step #4: Get Browser Plugins to Block Internet Cookies