THWARTING COOKIES For computer users who dislike the idea that Web site operators can track their repeat visits through "cookie" technology, there are several ways to block the software from collecting or relaying that information. PrivNet's Internet Fast Forward prevents the browser from sending cookies. The program can also block those annoying little ad banners, eliminating the time it takes to download them. Anonymizer functions more as a proxy service -- the information is not given out unless the user grants permission. "Surfing feels anonymous, like reading a newspaper," says Anonymizer's creator, "but it's not. What Netscape needs is a feature saying, `Look, I never want to see another cookie again.'" (Scientific American Oct 96 p50)

Accepting/Declining Cookies

To eliminate cookies you may have currently accepted, and to deny cookies in the future, please follow this procedure:

If you are using Netscape Navigator 3.0, go to the Options Menu, to Network Preferences and then to Protocols. Check the box that says "Show an alert before accepting a cookie." Then go into your Netscape folder (usually c:\program files\netspace\navigator) and delete the file which is called "cookies.txt." Under Windows 95, you could also use the Find feature on the start menu to simply find the file called Cookies.txt.
In Internet Explorer 3.0, go to the View menu, then to Options, then to Advanced. Check the box that says "Warn before accepting cookies." Then go into your cookies directory (usually c:\windows\cookies) and delete all the files you have there. Once you delete these files, you will have no more cookies, and you will be prompted each time a Web site attempts to send a cookie to your system. At that time, you can choose to either Accept or Cancel the cookie.

What is a cookie?

A cookie is a mechanism developed by Netscape to make up for the stateless nature of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) that transfers key words on the net. Normally, each time a browser requests the URL (Website address) of a page from a Web server, the request is treated as a completely new interaction. The fact that the request may be just the most recent in a series of requests as the user browses methodically through the site is lost. Although this makes the Web more efficient, this stateless behavior makes it difficult to create things like shopping carts that must remember the userís over a particular period of time. Cookies solve this problem. A cookie is a small piece of information, often no more than a short session identifier, that the HTTP server sends to the browser when the browser connects for the first time. Thereafter, the browser returns a copy of the cookie to the server each time it connects.

Why are cookies used on Websites?

Typically the server uses the cookie to remember the user and to maintain the illusion of a "session" that spans multiple pages. Because cookies are not part of the standard HTTP specification, only some browsers support them: currently Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 and higher and Netscape Navigator 2.0 and higher. The server and/or its CGI scripts must also know about cookies in order to take advantage of them.

Cookies cannot be used to steal information about you or your computer system. They can only be used to store information that you have provided at some point. To give a benign example, if you fill out a form giving your favorite color, a server can turn this information into a cookie and send it to your browser. The next time you contact the site, your browser will return the cookie, allowing the server to alter the background color of its pages to suit your preferences.

Why do sites use cookies?

On some sites, cookies are used for your security and privacy to validate all access to pages that require participants to be registered, such as in chat rooms. This ensures that no one can access the private areas of the site except for those who are supposed to be there. In the chat sessions, cookies are used to remember who you are so that you donít have to enter your password every time you want to post a message. In the bookstore, the cookies keep track of and list the items you select for the Shopping Cart. These cookies remain only as long as your browser is open and they are destroyed as soon as you close it. Generally, websites do not collect any data through cookies. Our website visitors can be assured that we place a high value on confidentiality, privacy, and security.

If you have questions or concerns about cookies, please drop me an e-mail. R. J. Tave, J.D., Founder L.E.A.F. and Default-Webmaster.