| By Susan Bradley |
Web-browsing leaves behind lots of history about what you’ve done and where you’ve been online.
Have you looked at your browser’s cookie files lately? You can — here’s how.
Taking a look at what’s inside your cookies
The subject of browser cookies is a two-sided tale. Their good side makes it easier to visit websites and set browsing preferences; their bad side compromises our privacy. Last year, the Wall Street Journal featured a multipart series on the dark side of cookies — how they’re used to track who we are and how we browse the Web. Reading it could almost knock you off your Internet habit.
To give you examples of what you might find in browser cookies, I took a look at mine. There are two ways to see what they know about me: using a browser’s own tools or via third-party utilities.
Some of the third-party tools I discuss below might be flagged by your antivirus software as suspect. If you don’t feel comfortable trying them, you’ll have to stick to the basic information easily viewed on your system.
Browser cookies are specific to the browser they’re created on. But you’ll also run into another type of cookie — Flash cookies, which work across multiple browsers. In your zeal to clear out browser cookies, you’ll probably forget all about Flash cookies. Woody Leonhard covered them in his Aug. 5, 2010, Top Story, “Eliminate Flash-spawned ‘zombie’ cookies.”