This has long had privacy advocates up in arms, even though cookies typically do not collect any personalized information.
The problem is, blocking or deleting all cookies is almost crippling to your Web adventures. But letting every single cookie through compromises your privacy. So what do you do?
One option is: nuke all existing cookies. Then you can take some control back. How you do it depends on the desktop or mobile browser you’re using. Chrome and Firefox users, I’d suggest you install the Click&Clean extension and use it to take care of cookies. But there are manual methods.
After you do that, take advantage of the built-in controls in each browser to limit the cookies you get. At the very least, you can always block the third-party/advertiser cookies.
It’s not fool-proof, as advertisers can find ways around that simple option, but it’s a start. There are many extensions that help you control cookies on browser like Firefox and Chrome. Check out their respective Web stores/repositories for options.
Google Chrome (Desktop)
Click the “hamburger stack” (three lines stacked on each other) in the upper right corner to get the Chrome menu, and select Settings—or type “chrome://settings/” without the quotation marks in the omnibox (aka the address bar). At the bottom of the page, click the “Show Advanced settings” link, then Clear browsing data button to get this menu.
You can check the third box down and click the “Clear browsing data” button at bottom to delete cookies. Just pick a timeframe from the menu at the top.
To manage the cookies in Chrome, type “chrome://settings/content” in the omnibox.
You can tell Chrome to allow data from local sites you actually visit, only keep that data until you close the browser, or block cookies altogether.
The best option: Block all third-party cookies and site data. You can also set exceptions—if you block all cookies, you might to still allow them for, say, Amazon and NYTimes.com, just so you don’t have to re-type your password all the time.
Click the All cookies and site data button to see a list of the cookies actually installed locally on your computer. You can go through them one by one and delete as desired.
Google Chrome (mobile)
Access the menu via the 3 dots in the upper right, and select Settings > Privacy.
You’ll see an option here for Clear Cookies, Site Data. That’s all you can do; you don’t get any granular controls over existing cookies and can’t block third-party cookies alone.
You can go to Settings > Content Settings and turn off “Accept Cookies,” however, to block all cookies entirely.
Even in the latest version of Firefox the Options area where you find cookie controls, hasn’t changed all that much in years.
Click the upper right “hamburger stack” and select Options.
Visit the Privacy tab (the one with the mask icon), and you’ll see under the History section a link that says “remove individual cookies.” You can go into that to click and Remove All Cookies, or just the ones you want.
You can even search for cookies with this dialog box.
Go back into that Privacy > History section and use the menu next to “Firefox will:” to choose “Use custom settings for history.”
This is where you tell Firefox to accept cookies from sites (and set up exception sites to always block or allow), choose to accept cookies from third-party sites (always, never, or only when visited), and how long to keep cookies (until they expire, until you close Firefox, or they can ask you whenever you get one).
The Firefox browser is also available on Android.
To control cookies there, go to the stacked-dots menu and select Settings > Privacy > Cookies.
You get three choices: Enabled, Enabled excluding 3rd Party, or Disabled.
To erase all cookies, at the bottom of the Privacy screen, under Clear Private Data, check the box next to “Clear on Exit.” You’ll get another pop-up to pick Cookies & Active Logins, among other settings.
Microsoft’s venerable browser for Windows won’t be around much longer. Chances are whatever Project Spartan turns into in Windows 10 won’t deviate much from IE, to be honest.
But meanwhile, there’s still millions of IE users out there with cookies of their own. Here’s how you deal with them.
Click the gear icon in the upper right to get to Internet Options. To delete all cookies, just go directly to the General tab, under Browsing history click the Delete button.
One option to delete is “Cookies and website data.” However, if you keep the check on “Preserve Favorites website data,” you won’t lose cookies if the site is one of your bookmarked browser faves. It’s a nice way of having an exception to the nuclear option.
On the Privacy tab, you’ll see a slider at the top. At the top, it will block all cookies. At the bottom, it allows all cookies.
Macintosh users get Safari as the default browser. By default, it’s only taking cookies from sites you visit. You can make changes to that by going to the Safari menu (gear icon, naturally) and selecting Preferences > Privacy and looking under Cookies and Website data.
Click Remove All Website Data > Remove Now to kill all cookies; click Details to pick the cookies you crush.
If you’d like to manage how Safari handles cookies, on that same Privacy tab you get four options for blocking: All from third parties and advertisers, allow from current website only, allow from sites you visit, or never.
To manage the cookies Safari will take, click an option under Cookies and Website data to either always block, allow from current site only (not third parties), allow from all visited sites, or allow all cookies.
The built-in browser on the iPhone and iPad upped its game when iOS 8 came out last year. It finally started allowing a little more cookie blocking, going from always/never/no third-party blocking, to always/never/no third-party/not from current website.
That last one means you can block all the cookies except for the site you’re currently visiting, just like with Safari on the desktop.
Unlike other browsers, both desktop and mobile, you don’t access the cookie settings by opening the browser itself. In iOS, go to Settings app, and select Safari. In the Privacy & Security area, click Block Cookies to pick.
When you want to kill all the cookies, in the Safari settings, choose “Clear History and Website Data.” To kill just select cookie data stored by websites (and keep your History), scroll down to Advanced, then Website Data.
You’ll get a list of the sites storing the most data; at the bottom of the list click Show All Sites to see the full list.
Delete the data for sites you don’t recognize or trust; you’ll sleep better at night. Or clear them all by clicking the bottom link: “Remove All Website Data.”