If you want to know a little of what’s going on behind the scenes on your Mac’s browsers, read Cookies and Privacy. Then, prepare to be afraid; very afraid.
In a nutshell, here’s what happens when you and your browser visit most web sites. A cookie, a small piece of information, is attached to your browser, which enables sites and advertisers to track your whereabouts online.
Web sites and advertisers don’t ask you for permission to track which sites you visit, which pages you read, what you buy online. Permission is implied, and sites and advertisers simply take it from you.
The latest cookies and privacy brouhaha comes from Google sneakily overriding the default settings on Safari and Internet Explorer (and who knows what else) to track you even when you’re not expecting to be tracked.
Since the early days of Safari, Apple gives browser users three options to block cookies in the browser’s preferences.
Never. Always. Or, From 3rd Parties and Advertisers (the default).
Google found a way around the default setting and got caught. If you don’t mind being tracked by Google and a gazillion other advertisers, don’t worry about it. If you worry, open Preferences in Safari and click the Privacy tab.
If you don’t want anyone to track you, click the Always option. Then select Private Browsing in the Safari menu and hope for the best.
Why do advertisers want to track your online whereabouts? To Google, their search engine is not the product. Google Gmail is not the product. Google wants you to use their tools because you are the product. They collect and sell information about you.
A huge chunk of the advertising on most web sites comes from Google and they will do nearly anything and everything to gain more information about you. That’s the price of doing business (or browsing) on the web.
Managing your browser settings and cookies brings some control back to you.