How to limit tracking and manage cookie settings within your browser
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In continuation of our two-part how to limit tracking series, let’s talk desktop. If you missed last week’s post on how to limit ad tracking on your mobile device, you can check it out here. Most browsers have similar tracking and cookie settings that can be configured by the user. If cookies and trackers are new concepts to you, here’s a crash course on the basics. Now let’s take a closer look at these settings within four popular browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Edge.
Open Chrome > go to Settings > scroll down to Advanced > in the Privacy and Security section, turn on Send a “Do Not Track” request with your browsing traffic
As seen in the notification, turning on the Do Not Track feature does not guarantee of tracker-free experience – the way the request is handled will vary from site to site. This feature was implemented with good intentions, but never took off the way it was planned. With that being said, it doesn’t hurt to have this setting enabled for sites that choose to comply.
Moving on to cookie settings – in the Privacy and Security section, click Site Settings > Cookies. Here you can adjust the permissions cookies have within Chrome, including if sites can save and read cookie data and the option to block third-party cookies. Determining whether these settings should be enabled or disabled is based on personal preference, but here are some things to consider:
- Blocking sites from saving and reading cookie data will often break sites that require you to sign in. This is why it is recommended to leave this setting enabled.
- Blocking all third-party cookies in your browser settings can also cause issues while browsing. If you’d like to block third party cookies on a more granular level, check out the Ghostery Browser Extension. It offers the ability to block these on a script by script and site by site basis.
Open Firefox > go to Preferences > Privacy & Security choose your level of content blocking
Similar to Chrome, Firefox notes that blocking everything (Strict) may cause some sites to break.
If you scroll down a little further, you’ll see options for the Do Not Track feature. Do Not Track functions the same way within Firefox, varying on a site to site basis and again not guaranteeing a tracker-free experience.
Just below, you can also manage your cookie settings. Here you can see the amount of space your cookies, site data, and cache are using and choose to clear them entirely or on a more granular level. You can also choose to manage the cookie and data permissions of specific sites. This can be done in the Content Blocking section as well.
You may also want to consider checking the box to “Delete cookies and site data when Firefox is closed”. This prevents long-term cookies from being stored in your browser without having to manually delete them every so often.
Open Safari > click Safari > go to Preferences > choose the Privacy tab > choose your settings
Safari has a much simpler interface for tracking and cookie settings. Users are presented with two options: Prevent cross-site tracking and Block all cookies. Preventing cross-site tracking allows tracking data to be deleted periodically. It’s a good idea to have this feature turned on. Like other browsers, blocking all cookies in Safari has the potential to cause issues and break sites. However, you can manage the cookies and data being stored on a site to site basis by clicking Manage Website Data.
Open Edge > click three horizontal dots in the top right corner > choose Settings > Privacy & security
Like all of the browsers mentioned above, Edge has its own settings for handling cookies and other data. Under the Browsing data section, you’ll find settings for clearing your browsing data and blocking cookies. Microsoft also offers an additional option to clear books data.
Under the Privacy section, you’ll see the familiar Do Not Track option.
Many browsers are making an effort to better their privacy and security for users; however, the settings that are currently available cannot fully protect you from online tracking. We suggest adding additional privacy tools to your toolbelt, including a VPN and tracker blocking technologies. Check out the Ghostery Browser Extension – a great tool for blocking hidden trackers that follow you across the web as you browse.
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