Don’t toss your cookies

How to control your online privacy with software

privacy Cookies are good for you – no, really! Although many people concerned about online security worry about cookies, it is not the cookies which are the issue. Cookies are not executable – they do not run programs – so they are not able to carry viruses or change how your computer works. They are just tiny files which store information to make your browsing experience better. This includes information on your preferences, the details you need to log in or comment, what is in your shopping basket and so on. The real problem for internet users is 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 – we all know about this. Blocking cookies not only WILL NOT protect you from the effects of spyware and viruses but it WILL break websites, so blocking all cookies may not be such 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 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, cookies or no cookies. Most of them work by scanning your system, identifying potential problems and quarantining or deleting spyware, malware, and adware. You can schedule regular scans while regular software updates will ensure you are protected as new viruses are invented. Then there are the ads. While ads have their place, by helping 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 will not eliminate the ads. For that, you need special software tools, which many of those anti-spyware and anti-virus software suites already have built in. fergus-analyticsThere is one more thing to think about if you are 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 that, 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 is the MyPermissions page – you might be surprised at what you are allowing. (Running a website? Learn more about responsible cookie use).  

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