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How to Clear Computer Cookies

Do you feel like some websites know a little too much about you? That‘s likely because of cookies – small tracking files that get saved to your computer as you browse the web. Cookies can be convenient, but can also pose privacy issues if left unchecked. Don‘t worry – this guide will teach you all about identifying and clearing out unwanted cookies from your devices.

What Are Cookies and How Do They Work?

When you visit a website, it can store a small text file called a cookie in your web browser and device memory. This enables the site to remember information about you and your preferences. For example, cookies help:

  • Recognize you when logging back in so you don‘t have to re-enter your password
  • Recall items added to your shopping cart during previous visits
  • Save your website customization preferences like theme colors or font sizes

Cookies make your browsing experience smoother by retrieving data from your previous interactions with a site. However, they can also be used to monitor your behaviors across the internet.

The Problem with Cookies

While cookies provide some convenience, they pose risks including:

  • Tracking your activity – Cookies can profile everywhere you visit on the web by linking data across sites. This reveals your interests to build detailed behavioral profiles.

  • Privacy invasion – Over 90% of websites allow third-party services to install cookies that can compile your browsing history into a single record. This data gets used for targeted advertising.

  • Security vulnerabilities – Hackers can steal login and authentication cookies to gain access to user accounts without needing passwords. According to research from Akamai, stolen cookies contributed to 85% of web application attacks.

  • Hidden Flash cookies – Unlike regular cookies which get cleared when you delete your browser history, persistent Flash cookies reinstall themselves and enable continuing tracking.

Shocking Cookie Statistics

  • The top 500 sites place over 3,000 cookies per user on average (Source)

  • 78% of all cookies are classified as third-party (Source)

  • There are over 2 billion cookie-tracking requests per day across the web (Source)

  • 23% of cookies have a lifetime greater than 1 year (Source)

New Tracking Techniques Emerge

As users become more aware of cookies, websites are turning to sneakier identifiers to track them, such as:

  • Browser fingerprinting – Collects subtle configuration differences like device type, plugins, and fonts to single you out.

  • Cookie syncing – Partners exchange IDs mapped to user profiles so activity gets linked across domains.

  • Supercookies – Uses techniques like ETags to essentially re-spawn cookies that were already deleted.

These stealthy new tactics present fresh challenges to privacy far beyond traditional cookies.

Mobile Apps Also Use Tracking

It‘s not just browsers – mobile apps contain tracking frameworks that work similarly to cookies:

  • Advertising IDs assign you a unique identifier akin to a cookie. Disabling it doesn‘t completely prevent tracking.

  • SDKs embed third-party code that enables cross-app tracking of your usage and may share data without consent.

  • Device fingerprinting uses technical details of your mobile device like hardware specifications to profile you.

App permissions provide access to sensitive data like contacts and location that web cookies can‘t access. Be thoughtful about the apps you use and restrict their permissions whenever possible.

Identifying Cookies on Your Computer

Wondering exactly what cookies may be lurking on your computer right now? Here are some techniques to spot them:

  • Open your browser‘s cookie manager to view a list of all cookies – we‘ll go over how to do this shortly.

  • Use browser developer tools to inspect HTTP response headers – look for Set-Cookie fields.

  • Search for files with "cookie" in the filename in your browser profile folder.

  • Install a cookie inspection browser extension like EditThisCookie or Cookie Inspector.

  • On a mobile device, enable developer options and look in App Storage.

Now let‘s go over how to clean out any cookie clutter uncovered…

Step-by-Step Guide to Removing Cookies

Let‘s walk through exactly how to clear cookies in all the major browsers.

Deleting Cookies in Chrome

  1. Click the 3 vertical dots in the top right and open Settings.

  2. Select Privacy & Security, then click Clear browsing data.

  3. Check the boxes for Cookies and other site data and Cached images and files.

  4. Select All time from the timeframe dropdown.

  5. Click Clear data.

![Animated image showing how to clear cookies in Chrome browser]

Clearing cookies in Firefox

  1. Click the 3 horizontal lines in the top right and go to Privacy & Security.

  2. Scroll down to the Cookies and Site Data section and click Clear Data.

  3. Select Cookies and Site Data and Cached Web Content.

  4. Click the Clear button.

Removing Cookies in Microsoft Edge

  1. Click the 3-dot menu and open Settings.

  2. Click Choose what to clear under Clear browsing data.

  3. Check Cookies and saved website data and Cached data and files.

  4. Click Clear now.

Deleting Cookies in Safari

  1. Select Safari > Clear History and Website Data in the menu bar.

  2. Make sure Cookies and other website data is checked then click Clear History.

Clearing Cookies in Lesser Known Browsers

Other niche browsers like Brave, Vivaldi, and Opera also allow you to delete cookies in their settings under Privacy or Clear browsing data. Look for options to clear cookies, cache and site data.

Mobile Cookie Clearing

On iOS, go to Settings > Safari > Clear History and Website Data. For Android Chrome, tap Settings > Privacy > Clear browsing data, then cookies and site data.

You may also need to clear cache and data for individual apps. For more persistent mobile cookies, a factory reset or rooting/jailbreaking may be required.

Browsing Privacy Best Practices

Here are some tips to keep in mind going forward when managing cookies:

  • Periodically clear your cookies – don‘t let them build up indefinitely.

  • Use your browser‘s privacy or incognito modes when browsing sensitive websites.

  • Pay attention to cookie consent notices on sites and opt-out of third-party cookies when possible.

  • Be selective about signing into services with social media accounts which enables more tracking.

  • Consider using a private DNS system like NextDNS to block third-party trackers.

  • Disable Flash entirely since it allows resurrecting deleted cookies.

  • Replace default search engines with more privacy-focused options like DuckDuckGo.

  • Install browser extensions like Cookie AutoDelete to automatically clear cookies as you browse.

The web feels ubiquitous, but it‘s still possible to tame it. With greater cookie awareness and some proactive management, you can help preserve your privacy as you surf the net.

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Streamr Go

StreamrGo is always about privacy, specifically protecting your privacy online by increasing security and better standard privacy practices.