In the last issue I covered privacy and website and search-engine “cookies,” those small bits of information that websites store on your computer to track your website visits and searches. Cookies work in conjunction with your web browser and can reveal more than you may want to websites and search engines because they contain lots of information about the web places you visit and the terms you search with.
But cookies aren’t the only forms of private data that browsers store. Your “History” menu stores the sites you’ve been to and sometimes will auto-fill the URL in the address bar as you type it in.
Your browser cache stores copies of the websites, so that when you click the “back” button, pages load faster than if your browser had to reload the complete web page anew. And your browser saves and auto-fills registration form logins and passwords.
As a result, your history, cache and form-fill functions are all privacy concerns. And that’s both for you as an individual, and for everyone in a family who shares the same PC.
But you can clear your history and cache and form data in any browser so it’s gone and won’t be revealed to websites that track your use or to others who use your PC.
In Safari, 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” with options. Read the options for each to either clear your history and keep the cookies, or clear all information.
But there are ways to use a web browser in such a way as to not save cookies, history, auto-fill or cache, so you don’t have to think about deleting that information afterward.
Recent versions of the most popular web browsers offer “private browsing” modes, which means no private information is saved. When you quit the session or the browser itself, 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. For more details on using Firefox, see https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/private-browsing-use-firefox-without-history
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. See https://markratledge.com/link/ieinprivate/
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. That oversight should be fixed in a future version. See http://www.apple.com/safari/