What is a Super Cookie and Can You Remove it From Your Computer and SmartPhone?
Webopedia defines a cookie as “A message given to a Web browser by a Web server. The browser stores the message in a text file. The message is then sent back to the server each time the browser requests a page from the server.” Computers store these cookies so that they can remember information. There is also something called the Super Cookie. Blogstopsign.com claims, “Unlike its cousin the browser cookie, the super cookie is a Flash-based cookie that is stored in a different location on a computer than a browser cookie, can be much larger than the 4K allotted the browser cookie, and is much more difficult to uninstall (or even find on your PC) than the cookies you’re used to dealing with.” Computerweekly.com claims Super Cookies can store around 100K by default.
Ebezine.com claims “The new Web language and its additional features present more tracking opportunities because the technology uses a process in which large amounts of data can be collected and stored on the user’s hard drive while online. Because of that process, advertisers and others could, experts say, see weeks or even months of personal data. That could include a user’s location, time zone, photographs, text from blogs, shopping cart contents, e-mails and a history of the Web pages visited.”
It’s not just computers where you have to think about cookies tracking your actions. If you haven’t read the recent Wall Street Journal article Your Apps are Watching You, I highly recommend it. The author of the article does a nice job of explaining how apps on smartphones are able to track and share information about us. With the popularity of apps, this is a big issue. In the WSJ article they claim, “Every phone has a unique ID assigned to it. “It is effectively a “supercookie,” says Vishal Gurbuxani, co-founder of Mobclix Inc., an exchange for mobile advertisers.”
- Ringleader designed a pseudo-cookie analytic system called Media Stamp.
- Deleting the cookies doesn’t help, nor does going into Safari’s stored databases and deleting the Ringleader database, RLDGUID.
- Ringleader would simply fetch the unique ID it stored for an individual’s phone and start tracking all over again. The folks at Ars Technica tried using Ringleader’s opt-out service, but the RLDGUID database just reappeared. Apparently, the company needs to keep track of your phone’s unique ID forever, so it knows to opt-you out of its ads.
If you do most of your web surfing on your computer, there are ways to remove Super Cookies from your computer. Blogstopsign.com gives the following suggestions about how to do this:
- Manual deletion: The most tech savvy method to remove the super cookie, manual deletion is probably best suited for the technically minded. A super cookie is usually found in the “Flash Player” directory on your computer, but can be stored elsewhere. Use the search tool on your PC and look for the *.sol file extension.
- Better Privacy (Firefox addon): If you use Firefox you can add the Better Privacy plugin to your install and let the addon work its magic on your LSOs.
- Disable/remove Flash: Not a fan of Flash in the first place? Don’t care about certain videos or online games? If so, just disable or full-on remove the Flash player from your computer. If it works for iPhone users, it might work for you, too.
- Visit Adobe: Adobe has a tool that you can use to update your settings quickly and easily. Just go to http://www.macromedia.com/support/documentation/en/flashplayer/help/settings_manager03.html and set the “Global Storage Settings” to “Zero”. This will prevent new flash cookies from being put on your computer, but if you have any right now you’ll still have to remove them as described above.