Cookies. We‘ve all taken a bite of these irresistible morsels and reaped the benefits of extra chips, candies, and convenience they provide. But I‘m not talking about those crumbly, chocolate-chip treats. I‘m talking about internet cookies – those tiny text files that follow you around the web.
On the surface, cookies sound pretty harmless. They help sites remember your login details and preferences to improve your browsing experience. But beneath that friendly facade, internet cookies collect a ton of data on where you go and what you do online.
Third-party ad trackers utilize cookies to compile detailed records of your interests and habits as you surf the web. They use this data to target ads and make billions selling your behavioral insights to advertisers. Not so harmless anymore, huh?
While cookies open the door for companies to monitor your digital footprint, you‘re not powerless against their stealthy tracking. In this guide, we‘ll explore all you need to know about finding and destroying the cookies following you around the internet. Let‘s dig in!
What Are Cookies and How Do They Work?
Cookies are tiny text files, usually ranging from a few hundred bytes to a few kilobytes, that are stored in your internet browser. They contain information like login details, shopping cart items, search preferences, and more. Food for thought – the average internet user has over 200 cookies files stored on their computer!
Session vs. Persistent Cookies
There are two main types of cookies:
Session cookies – These are temporary cookies that expire when you close your browser. Their main purpose is to keep you logged into websites and remember items added to your cart during a browsing session. Once you close out of the browser, poof! The session cookies disappear.
Persistent cookies – Unlike their short-lived counterpart, persistent cookies stick around on your device until they expire or are manually deleted. These enduring cookies remember important info like your username, password, and preferences across browsing sessions. But persistent cookies also allow sites to continue tracking you long after you‘ve left.
|Session Cookies||Persistent Cookies|
|Lifespan||Temporary, deleted after browser is closed||Remain until expiration date or manually deleted|
|Purpose||Maintain logged in state, preserve items in shopping cart during a session||Remember user details, preferences, data across multiple sessions|
|Privacy Risk||Low – short lifespan limits tracking||High – allows ongoing tracking across sites until removed|
As you can see in the table above, persistent cookies lend themselves much better to long-term tracking compared to short-lived session cookies.
First-Party vs. Third-Party Cookies
Cookies are also categorized based on which domain created them:
First-party cookies – These are cookies set by the site you are directly visiting. For example, if you go to example.com, any cookies created came directly from that domain, so they are first-party cookies. These are usually necessary for the site to function properly.
Third-party cookies – Also known as tracking cookies, these are set by external domains outside the site you are visiting. For instance, many websites allow third-party analytics services, ads, social media buttons, etc. to set cookies even though you didn‘t navigate directly to those sites. Since these cookies come from external domains, they can be used to track your behavior across multiple sites.
|First-Party Cookies||Third-Party Cookies|
|Created by||The site you directly visit||External sites/trackers embedded on the site|
|Purpose||Required for core functionality like logins, preferences||Used for cross-site tracking, analytics, targeted advertising|
|Privacy Level||Needed for sites to work properly||Poses high risk of cross-site tracking and profiling|
While first-party cookies are critical for basic site functionality, third-party tracking cookies provide little benefit to the user and pose major privacy concerns. Read on to find out how you can control these invasive cookies!
The Staggering Scale of Online Tracking
Before we dive into managing cookies on your devices, it helps to understand the sheer scale of hidden data collection happening as you casually surf the web. Cookie tracking is big business – and you‘re the product.
- The global online advertising industry is worth over $378 billion annually as of 2021 .
- On average, 56 tracking cookies are installed on each website a user visits .
- Over 92% of websites use cookie tracking in some form .
- The data broker industry profits $200 billion a year buying and selling personal web histories .
- Google makes over 80% of their revenue from advertising enabled by cookie tracking .
These eye-popping stats illustrate just how pervasive online tracking is across the internet. The data gathered through cookies provides immense financial value to advertisers. But users pay the price through loss of privacy.
Luckily there are steps you can take to crack down on unwanted cookie tracking, starting with your web browser settings. Let‘s explore how to view, manage, and remove cookies from Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer.
Viewing Cookies in Microsoft Edge
Being aware of which cookies sites have dropped in your browser is the first step towards assessing whether tracking has gotten out of hand.
Microsoft Edge makes it simple to view your cookies:
- Open Edge and click the three-dot menu > Settings
- Select Cookies and site permissions in the left menu.
- Click See all cookies and site data.
A panel will open listing all the sites storing cookies on your device. To view specific cookie names, content, purpose, and expiration date, click the arrow icon next to each site.
I recommend periodically reviewing your cookies to identify any unexpected or unrecognized sites using them for potential tracking. This can help inform your cookie management strategy moving forward.
Clearing Out Cookie Crumbs in Microsoft Edge
Once you‘ve audited your cookies, you may want to evict any uninvited third-party ones lingering in your browser. Microsoft Edge offers a couple different options to wipe your cookies.
Nuclear Option: Obliterate All Cookies
If you want to scorched earth all cookies from Edge, here‘s how:
- Click the three-dot menu > Settings > Privacy, search, and services
- Under Clear browsing data, select Choose what to clear
- Check the box for Cookies and other site data
- Click the big blue Clear now button.
This immediately deletes all cookies saved in Edge, regardless of which sites created them. Poof! A clean cookie slate. Just know you‘ll be logged out of any sites you were actively using.
Surgical Strike: Delete Specific Site Cookies
For more precision, you can delete cookies from particular sites:
- Go to Settings > Cookies and site permissions
- Click See all cookies and site data
- Locate the site whose cookies you want gone
- Click the down arrow next to the site name
- Select the trash can icon next to each individual cookie to delete.
This allows you to surgically remove cookies from known trackers while preserving useful cookies from sites you trust.
Auto-Destruct Mode: Configure Edge to Auto-Delete Cookies
Rather than manually wiping cookies each time, you can set Edge to vaporize them automatically at the end of each browsing session:
- In Settings, go to Privacy, search, and services
- Under Clear browsing data, enable Choose what to clear every time you close the browser
- Select the Cookies and other site data checkbox.
Now when you close Edge, your cookies will detonate like mission impossible. Your privacy remains intact, but you‘ll have to sign back into sites each session.
Blocking Cookies from Tracking You in Edge
Beyond just deleting cookies, you can take preventative measures to block them from being set in the first place:
- Open browser Settings and select Cookies and site permissions
- Click on Manage and delete cookies and site data
- Toggle on the switch for Block third party cookies
This erects a firewall to prevent tracking cookies from external sites from ever touching down in your browser.
You can also enter specific domains you want to block under the Block section. I recommend starting by blocking known privacy offenders like Facebook and Google.
The nuclear option is toggling Block all cookies to enforce a complete cookie blockade. But sites require first-party cookies to function properly, so expect some things to break with total blockade.
A balanced approach is allowing first-party cookies but restricting unnecessary third-party ones that are primarily used for cross-site tracking. This increases privacy without sacrificing core functionality.
Clearing the Crumb Trail in Internet Explorer
Given that Microsoft ended support for Internet Explorer (IE) in 2022, switching to the modern Microsoft Edge browser is highly recommended. However, if you need to purge cookies from IE, here are the steps:
- Open Internet Explorer
- Click the Tools icon > Internet Options > Delete Browsing History
- Make sure Cookies and website data is checked
- Click the Delete button.
This erases all cookies saved by IE. To also delete cache and browsing history, check those boxes before clicking delete.
If you have IE set as your default browser, consider switching to Edge for better performance, stronger security, and easier cookie management.
Manage Cookie Settings in Internet Explorer
You can also manage your IE cookie preferences:
- Go to Tools > Internet Options > Privacy tab
- Click the Advanced button
- Choose how IE should handle first vs. third-party cookies:
- Prompt for each cookie
I recommend blocking all third-party cookies to prevent tracking. Feel free to allow first-party cookies needed for logins and preferences.
While Edge offers more robust cookie controls, these options in IE‘s Advanced Privacy Settings let you filter cookies to enhance privacy.
Bake Privacy Into Your Browsing Habits
Beyond just managing cookies already on your device, adopting smart browsing habits can limit how many get tracked in the first place:
- Use a private/incognito browsing window when shopping online or visiting sites you don‘t fully trust. This will sandbox any cookies to just that session.
- Clear cookies frequently to limit profiling. Don‘t let them persist for long periods.
- Disable third-party cookies in your browser settings to block cross-site tracking.
- Monitor cookies regularly to identify and remove any unexpected ones.
- Utilize a VPN to encrypt traffic and mask your IP address from prying trackers.
With some diligence on your part, you can enjoy your cookie of the internet kind without leaving a trail of crumbs for intrusive trackers.
Key Takeaways on Microsoft Cookie Management
- Cookies provide convenience but can track you across sites. Restricting tracking/third-party cookies enhances privacy.
- Leverage Microsoft Edge‘s robust cookie controls to view, clear out, delete, and block cookies.
- Internet Explorer is outdated – switch to Edge for better security and easier cookie management.
- Employ smart browsing habits like using incognito mode, VPNs, ad blockers to limit cookie tracking.
- Take back control of your privacy by proactively monitoring and managing cookies.
While cookies will never be as satisfying as biting into a warm chocolate chip cookie, properly managing internet cookies ensures you seulrf the web smoothly without unwanted crumbs following you around.
Now go forth and bake up some privacy!