Cookies are small text files that servers can store on your system when your browser or another program connects to them. They can be used for good and bad things. Good for instance to save session information so that you don't have to sign in on every page that you visit on a site once you have logged in. They are also used to track user activities on the Internet.
Tracking cookies that record private information are the ones that most people want to block. The majority of web browsers come with options to do that right from within the program.
Most offer to block all cookies or only select ones. The following guide walks you through the steps of doing so in Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Mozilla's Firefox web browser.
While inexperienced users may find it difficulty to decide which cookies to allow and which to block, it is often sufficient to block all third-party cookies on the Internet.
The start of this process is to whitelist sites. Starting with Internet Explorer, click Tools > Internet Options > Privacy > Sites. If Tools is not displayed, press Alt to display it.
You then get the Per Site Privacy Actions menu:
Here begins the manual entry of each site that you want to whitelist . You can toggle the settings for first and third-party cookies to make this easier, but you will lose customized specifications. To toggle the cookie settings, click Tools > Internet Options > Privacy. Select Advanced and click OK.
IE doesn’t offer many options. Consider taking the time to manually whitelist cookies or to simply block all third-party cookies instead.
Another option that you have is to set all cookie requests to notify you. This is done by selecting prompt on the configuration page above. Note that this will result in many prompts displayed to you in the beginning as sites sometimes want to store ten or more cookies on your system.
It is highly suggested to enable the "always allow session cookies" box on that page.
Firefox offers better options. For those who do not wish to use Firefox, just stick to manual whitelisting with Internet Explorer.
Moving on to Firefox, you can find broad user options that allow for a clean customization.
Open Firefox, tap on the Alt-key and select Tools > Options > Privacy.
You need to switch from "Remember History" to "Use custom settings for History" first before cookie customization options are displayed to you.
There you can block third-party cookies right away for example and define for how long cookies should be kept. You can select to keep them until they expire or when you close the browser.
A click on the exceptions button displays additional options. Here you can whitelist or blacklist sites permanently. One option here is to add sites that are known tracking sites to the blocklist so that cookies from them are not accepted by the browser.
Allow makes sense if you have selected to disallow all cookies but want some cookies to be saved to the local system.
Firefox users who do not want to work with prompts can check out the guide Configure Firefox To Delete All Cookies On Exit But Select Ones to work around that by deleting all but selected cookies on browser exit automatically.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.