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Firefox and Other Browsers’ Cookie Privacy Settings for 3rd Party Cookies

July 2nd, 2008

Cookies are small coded files that Web sites write onto your hard drive to keep track of the pages you’ve visited. They can only be read by the site that sent them to you, and they cannot search anything else on your computer. They also don’t give away your name or other personally identifiable information (PII). So, why are some people worried about cookies? Where you search and what you enter online can be very personal, sensitive information. If you’ve ever filled out a form or entered your name or password at the site, your personal information can be linked to your browsing habits there. So you’ll want to read the privacy policy of the Web site you’re visiting to see how cookies are handled.

At the same time, cookies can be useful tools. The “Google Privacy: A Look at Cookies” YouTube video provides some interesting information about how cookies can be useful. The Berkman Center at Harvard asked users to create their own YouTube videos to describe how cookies work and received some fairly decent descriptions. Many of the videos noted that much of the free content on the Internet is supported by cookie-enabled advertising.

It is important to note that not all cookies are the same. Some people have concerns about the different types of cookies that are out there. Let’s say that I’m browsing the homepage SomePortal.com, and the SomePortal.com allows the fictional Web site CookiePortal.com to place cookies on the browsers of visitors to SomePortal.com. This is type of cookie is a third party cookie. It is a cookie that does not originate from the webpage currently being browsed. Third party cookies are also used to facilitate the partnerships among websites. This can help websites to tailor content to the individual.

If you’d rather not have third parties tracking the Web pages you visit, you may want to consider blocking cookies from them. In a number of Web browsers, it is possible to change your privacy settings to block third-party cookies from being placed on your computer. The just-released Mozilla Firefox 3 browser now allows users to block third-party cookies (Note: Internet Explorer and Opera have allowed this for years) and there is a new video tutorial below. Check out the related video tutorials for blocking third-party cookies in IE and Opera if you use those browsers.

Control Third-Party Cookies in Firefox 3

If you would like to learn how to do this on other browsers, please visit the following the Browsing Privacy Section on GetNetWise.org.

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