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Opt-Out of Cookies That Track You
You may have heard about computer cookies before. They're teeny files that get deposited onto your computer's hard drive as you browse the Web. What you may not have heard is that not all cookies are equal.
Some cookies are fairly harmless. These cookies tend to expire quickly and simply let you use a Web site more easily. But not all cookies are innocent. Some cookies, like tracking cookies, can actually harm you by collecting a great deal of information about what Web sites you visit and what you look at and do at those Web sites.
It's become important to know the difference between the harmless and potentially harmful cookies these days. Otherwise, if you just accept every cookie that comes your way, your Web browsing habits can be profiled and tracked and even merged with your "offline" purchasing habits. Depending on your browsing habits, this can unfortunately tell companies when you are looking for work, what kind of work you do, when you have applied to what jobs, and what other Web sites you have been looking at.
The tracking kinds of cookies can even tell companies approximately what your income level is, what diseases you or a relative may have, what size jeans you buy, and more. Some of the companies that deposit tracking cookies abide by a self-regulation scheme that asks for consent in some cases and offers an opt-out of this kind of tracking. But unfortunately, many of the companies that deposit tracking cookies do not abide by this.
Consumer Profiling and Tracking Cookies
The unhealthy kinds of cookies that track Web browsing habits are called "profiling cookies," "persistent cookies," "long term tracking cookies," or "third party tracking cookies." Sometimes they are called "third party cookies" or simply "tracking cookies." No matter what they are called, these kinds of cookies are typically sent to your computer by advertising or marketing companies, and they can last for decades.
The reason these cookies can create a long history of your Web browsing and job searching activities is because these kinds of cookies allow companies to track your movements across many different Web sites. This can be a real problem over time.
For example, if you are looking for a job on Monster.com (which as of this writing deposits advertising.com cookies, among others) and then you go look at a health Web site such as MD.com, then a company called Advertising.com knows you have been to both places. That's because Advertising.com puts a tracking cookie, or a file, on your computer to report back to them whenever you visit one of the sites in their advertising network, sometimes even saying what pages or specific jobs you looked at. Some sites have cookies on areas where you fill out forms or post a resume, so those companies know when you have posted a resume and may know what kind of information you are giving out online.
What do the marketing companies actually learn from tracking cookies? It may surprise you. If you have filled out forms online with your real name and contact information, or have clicked on banners then purchased an item, or if you have filled out sweepstakes or contests forms, then it is quite possible that major online advertisers know your name and have associated it with your Internet Protocol, or IP address and other information.
The MediaPlex cookie currently deposited to visitors browsing Monster.com, for example, contains a statement that it "stores identifiable information without any user consent." This statement can be viewed using the cookie management feature of the Netscape 7 browser.
Companies like MediaPlex and others that hold this profiling information of your Web browsing habits can then sell or merge that information with many other sources of information, such as magazine or catalog subscription lists. Even though cookies seem quite innocent, allowing the tracking types of cookies to follow you around as you surf the Web is a lot like building a see-through house to live in, click by click.
The good news is that you can manage these persistent tracking cookies to some degree. To do this, you need to know how to say no to the third party tracking cookies while still allowing yourself to say yes to the harmless cookies. There are several ways to do this. One way is to download "opt-out cookies." Another way is to use your browser's cookie management tools to manage your cookies. Another method is to regularly delete unwanted cookies. In some cases, you can stop tracking through account preferences at some web sites.
Four Ways to Say No (Opt out)
Download opt-out cookies.
Use the cookie management tools in your Web browser
Also, use cookie management tools to be selective in what long-term cookies you accept. In the newest versions of most web browsers, you can set your browser to accept only session cookies, or to turn all cookies into session cookies. Session cookies are generally harmless. For Macintosh Safari users, you can tell the browser to only accept cookies from "the site you are navigating to." This means that you will not accept third party cookies. To explore what cookie settings are available to you, look in the "preferences" or "options" section of your browser's menu.
View current cookies and delete what you don't need
Most Web browsers allow you to see what cookies you already have stored. You may have thousands of cookies if you are like many Web surfers. Some cookies, such as registration cookies for Web sites you visit frequently, are useful to keep around. But other cookies, like tracking cookies from atdmt.com, doubleclick.net, atwola.com, and other advertisers aren't necessarily helpful to you. Delete the cookies you don't need, and do a periodic check every couple of months to weed out your cookie folder.
Check your account preferences on registration sites
More About Opt-Out Cookies (or, cookies that say no)
"Opt-out cookies" are files that get put on your computer just like regular computer cookies. The difference is that opt-out cookies tell the marketing companies that they can't track you anymore. To get the opt out cookies, you go to a marketer's Web site, download their opt out cookie by clicking on a button, and then keep the cookie on your computer. The opt-out cookie tells the marketers to stop tracking you.
There are about a dozen major opt-out cookies that you can download. It is important to download each opt-out cookie, because each cookie will tell each company to stop tracking you. You should say no to tracking cookies whenever possible, so your every move online isn't logged and tracked. The opt-out cookies are counterintuitive in many ways, but that is the current system available. Much improvement is needed.
Opt-Out Cookie Links
To take advantage of opt-out cookies, make sure your Web browser is set to accept all cookies. Then click on each link below and follow the directions you find on each page. After you download the opt-out cookie, which usually involves just clicking on a link that says "opt out," keep the opt-out cookies on your computer. These cookies, created by the advertisers to allow you to say no to tracking, tell these advertisers to stop tracking you. After you click on the links, you can view the opt-out cookies in your computer's cookie folder.
Be aware that some of the language on the opt out pages below can be incredibly confusing. To cut through the clutter, just look for the opt-out link or button, and click it. That will usually do the trick.
These links below I know work to date...
NAI opt-out - Click Here
You can visit the NAI opt out page here and opt out of this tracking:
Tracking cookie opt out: Click Here
Tracking cookie opt out: Click Here
IMRWorldwide Nielsen Net Ratings/RedSherrif: Total optout: Click Here
Tracking cookie opt out: Click Here
Scroll to mid page and look for the oval purple button that says "opt out now."
Remember, run Anti-Spyware daily or weekly to keep cookies and alike under control.