The truth is, I’ve been irritated about tracking cookies for over ten years. Ever since I was an advisor on a corporate privacy project, I learned just how extensively our Internet browsing habits and patterns are being recorded. I don’t appreciate that kind of “over your shoulder” scrutiny and personally consider it an invasion of my privacy. The ad agencies defend their position of tracking cookies as their way of enriching my browsing experience. Whatever. I turn a blind eye to most ads anyway, but the idea of tracking where I go puts us on a slippery slope of Internet usage tracking that is not unlike what I believe occurs in communist China today.
Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t surf to sites I don’t want anyone to know about. While I am at work I am implicitly accountable to my employer for all of my usage of corporate owned assets – Internet access and personal computer included. And when I’m at home or on the road with my MacBook, I use OpenDNS that records where I go and blocks access to unwanted sites. My accountability partner is free to see those records on request.
Anyway, back to my main point – those tracking cookies. There is a way to opt out from nearly all of them. Before you spring into action, however, you will want to read this article all the way through, as there are several notes at the end.
If you have time to visit a lot of sites to opt out, go here to the World Privacy Forum and click on each link to opt out of each of the sites (there are, at least count, 46 of these):
I went through each link and opted out of each site. It took me about 15 minutes (I’m a fast typer and clicker). You’ll also want to go to Google to opt out from their advertising (I don’t know whey they are not listed on the World Privacy Forum opt out page) cookies as well:
If you want to do this the quick way, go here to the Network Advertising Initiative to opt out from many ad agencies in one single action:
Whichever option above you choose, know this: you will need to perform this on each browser (that is, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and so on) on your computer. Your computer’s cookies are managed separately by each browser, so you’ll have to go through the above procedures for each one you use. I use primarily Firefox on my Mac systems, and I’ve opted out of all of the sites I could find. I’ll have to do this later with Safari (which I use only occasionally).
You will need to do this on each computer you use.
Turning off cookies?
You may be thinking, why not just turn off all cookies (or at least all tracking cookies) on your browser. Certainly that would block all tracking cookies, present and future. Sure. But you would also certainly hamper the functionality of many of the websites you visit, particularly those you log in to in order to use the site’s services. But if you are into extreme measures and a little experimentation, I invite you to turn off cookies and see how things go. I will bet, however, that you will soon be turning them back on so that the important sites you use will keep working the way you want.
World Privacy Forum (http://www.worldprivacyforum.org/)
Electronic Privacy Information Center (http://www.epic.org)