My 2/21/10 Missoulian column Get to know browser privacy settings
Last week, in my continuing series about online privacy, I covered Web browser cookies and how to manage them.
But cookies aren’t the only forms of private data that browsers store. Your history menu stores the sites you’ve been to so it can autofill the URL in the address bar. Your browser cache stores copies of the Web sites, so that when you click the back button, pages load faster than if your browser had to completely reload Web page. And your browser will autofill site registration form log-ins and passwords.
I explained how cookies can be deleted, but your history, cache and form-fill functions are also privacy concerns if more than one person uses the same PC.
You can clear your history, cache and other data in any browser: in Safari and under the Safari menu, you can reset Safari with different options. In Firefox, you can clear recent history under the tools menu, with options for cookies and cache. In Internet Explorer, under tools, you’ll find delete browsing history.
But there are ways to use a Web browser so it won’t save cookies, history, autofill or cache. This way you don’t have to think about deleting the information when you’re done using the browser.
Recent versions of the most popular browsers offer private-browsing modes, which means no private information is saved in cookies or elsewhere in your browser. When you quit the session or the browser, all that data automatically goes away.
With Firefox, look under tools, select start private browsing. That opens a new tab or window, and no cookies, history or cache will be saved. More details on using Firefox’s Private Browsing mode.
For Internet Explorer, look under the tools menu, and select InPrivate browsing. A new window or tab will open and the word “InPrivate” will appear in the address bar. Internet Explorer has another setting called InPrivate Filtering, which can block cookies and content from third-party sites, but it’s not the same as InPrivate Browsing. More on IE and InPrivate Browsing.
For Safari, select private browsing under the Safari menu. But one problem with Safari is that even in private mode, cookies are still saved, though history and form-fill data are not stored. Hopefully that oversight will be fixed in a future version. More on Safari’s Private Mode.
Next week: Being proactive with online privacy.
This week in Mac Q & A: Rescuing Files from a Hard Drive