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Don’t Toss Your Cookies How to Control Your Online Privacy with Software

Cookies are good for you – no, really!

Many people concerned about online security worry about cookies, but the truth is, it’s not the cookies that are the issue. Cookies are not executable – that means they don’t run programs – so they can’t carry viruses or change how your computer works. They are just tiny files that store information to make your site browsing experience better. This includes information about your preferences on particular sites, the details you need to login or comment, what’s in your shopping basket and so on.

The real problems for internet users are not cookies, but spyware, viruses and, for some, invasive advertising and marketing.

Spyware can harvest sensitive information about your internet use, such as passwords. Viruses can harm your computer by running malicious programs and ads – well, we all know what they do. The truth is that blocking cookies WON’T protect you from the effects of spyware and viruses, but WILL break websites, so blocking all cookies isn’t a great idea. A better option for making web surfing both safe and user friendly is to use anti-spyware and anti-virus software.

There are literally dozens of these programs (from manufacturers such as Norton, McAfee, Trend Micro, Kaspersky and more) which can:

  • remove adware
  • identify potential spammers and malicious software based on a list
  • detect spyware and malware
  • detect and remove viruses

These programs will identify and eliminate threats to your privacy, whether they use cookies or not. Most of them work by scanning your system, identifying potential problems and quarantining or deleting spyware, malware and adware. You can schedule regular scans and there are regular software updates to ensure that you are protected as new viruses are invented.

And then there are the ads. While ads have their place, because they help keep the internet free, not everyone wants to see ads targeted to their particular location – or see them at all. Blocking cookies will stop the targeting, but it won’t eliminate the ads. For that, you need software and many of those anti-spyware and anti-virus software suites have built in tools to block ads.

And there’s one more thing to think about if you’re worried about privacy. Many social media sites use targeting as a way of serving up ads to its users. Facebook is a prime example. That means as well as protecting your privacy with software, you also need to review your social media privacy settings. A good place to check exactly what information sites hold and what you are doing with it from a single page is MyPermissions – you might be surprised at what you are allowing.

(Running a website? Learn more about responsible cookie use)

 
 
 

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