What Price Privacy? Managing Cookies Is Cheap Or Expensive

By now you know the Mac has been blessed with malware. Serious malware. While the latest malware is a Java-based Trojan Horse (which usually requires a user to download and install), Apple found it serious enough to issue multiple Java updates for Mac OS X.

All the excitement of a few hundred thousand Macs being infected got me to thinking. What else might be going on. What else can I do to ensure my privacy and increase my security.

Today I’m looking at cookies, those little snippets of tracking text that web sites and advertisers stuff into your Mac browser so they can track what you do online.

There seem to be three basic ways to handle cookies.

First, ignore them. Most cookies don’t do much anyway. Leaving them alone and never deleting a cookie will not make your Mac’s browser perform any worse. Advertisers and web sites love the information they get from cookies. Why bother?

Second, only the paranoid survive. Kill them cookies. Do it fast. Do it cheap. Open Safari’s Preferences, click on Privacy. Then look at the information right below the tab Remove All Website Data.

Mine says “363 websites stored cookies or other data.” Ouch. I delete Safari’s cookies once a month or so. they add up. A couple of clicks kills them all but they’ll come back.

Third, the expensive way to handle cookies is to try to manage them. That’s what Cookie Stumbler does. It’s a Mac app that analyzes the cookies on your Mac, shows you which ones are probably OK, and which are not, and it works in Safari, Chrome, OmniWeb, Camino, and watches over Adobe’s nefarious Flash cookies, too.

Cookie Stumbler is simple to set up and use. It scans your browser for cookies and lists them for you by domain. You decide which to keep or not, but the app is smart enough to know which cookies are commercial in nature.

 

Having to pay money for an app that manages cookies puts you in the 1-percent crowd. Not the rich folks. The paranoid folks.

Cookie Stumbler uses regularly updated definitions to keep track of cookies on your Mac. Once you set it up it’s mostly automatic.

 

You get granular control over browser caches, HTML5 storage, even web-based SQLite databases.

There’s also a handy scheduler so you can set Cookie Stumbler to run scans every so often and update you as to who or what is trying to track you and why.

Managing cookies this way is expensive. Not only does Cookie Stumbler have a price tag, there’s an annual subscription for the cookie definition updates.

It’s a great app to have if you’re really serious about your paranoia. Otherwise, simple go to Private Browsing in Safari, and delete all the cookies from time to time.

Why doesn’t Apple have a built-in setting that auto deletes cookies after every browser session?