How to Manage Cookies
Almost all modern browsers provide ways for you to control how your computer handles cookies. This includes the ability to block all or different types of cookies – and preventing them from being placed on your machine in the first place. They also enable you to delete the cookies that you already have. However each browser is different – and some offer more fine-grained control than others, or at least control that is easier to find. Anyone wishing to take better control over their online privacy would be well advised to spend some time familiarising themselves with the controls in their browser. However, below we provide a bit of an overview for the most common browsers.
Browsers are of course found on smartphone and tablets as well as traditional computers. Generally speaking smartphone browsers do not provide anywhere near the level of functionality in respect of cookie controls that ones on your PC or laptop do. However this is changing quickly so it is worthwhile trying to find out what controls you can make use of.
Cookie Settings Available by Browser
- Google Chrome
- FireFox (iOS)
- FireFox (Android)
- Safari (Desktop)
- Safari (Mobile)
- Microsoft Edge
- Internet Explorer
Google Chrome provides quite a good level of control over cookies. These can be found under the ‘Settings’ menu, which you can get to by clicking on the spanner icon in the top right-hand corner.
Under ‘Advanced Settings’ you can find a section dedicated to Privacy, which includes being able to clear your browsing history – which has several settings options, including deleting all your cookies.
You can also use Chrome to send a ‘Do Not track’ signal to the websites you visit.
However, the ‘Content Settings’ button also gives access to further controls including the ability to list all cookies and delete them individually. This list also includes HTML5 local storage and databases that modern sites sometimes use instead of cookies.
See documentation: Google Chrome
With Firefox you get to the cookie settings by clicking in the menu box in the top right-hand corner and selecting ‘Options’. On the pop-up, then select the ‘Privacy & Security’ panel.
With Firefox you can choose your level of content blocking – Standard, Strict, or Custom. You can also set functionality known as Do Not Track (DNT), however there is no guarantee at the moment that a website will respect that request – and there are no legal requirements for them to do that.
You can also set your preferences for what Firefox will record of your browsing history, including the way it treats cookies. For example, you can choose to accept third party cookies, but have them deleted when you close the browser. Like with Chrome you can also see a list of all the cookies saved and either delete them all or delete just the ones you don’t like.
See documentation: Mozilla Firefox
To clear cookies and other data from Firefox on iOS devices you first need to tab the Menu button, then select Settings
In the settings menu, tap Data Management here you will see a list of the types of data that you can delete. Using the toggle choose which data types to delete. The choices are browsing history, cache, cookies, offline website data, and saved logins.
Once you choose, tap Clear Private Data
See documentation: Mozilla Firefox (iOS)
On FireFox for Android you can manage your cookies and other site data directly within the app.
To clear all of your browsing history, go to History, click Clear Browsing History and tab OK. This will clear all items including sites visited, cookies, and cache.
To clear specific browsing data, go to the Menu, select Settings, tap Clear private data. Then select the specific data you would like to clear and tap OK.
Additionally, FireFox on Android gives you the option to delete data on exit. This setting is found by tapping Menu button, select Settings, then More. Tap Privacy and select Clear private data on exit.
See documentation: Mozilla Firefox (Android)
On Safari, you can manage cookies by going to Preferences and clicking Privacy. Here you have options to Prevent cross-site tracking, Always block cookies, remove stored cookies and data, and see which websites store cookies or data.
The Prevent cross-site tracking option is now turned on by default for all new versions of Safari, this option will automatically block all third-party cookies from sites that Safari has found to have the ability to track users.
To remove all or selected cookies, click Manage Website Data under remove stored cookies and data.
See documentation: Safari (Desktop)
On Mobile devices the settings within Safari are similar to those of desktop.
To manage cookies on Safari mobile, go to Settings > Safari. Here under the Privacy & Security header you can toggle functionality to Prevent Cross-Site Tracking, Block All Cookies, and set Do Not Track requests.
To Delete history, cache, and cookies you can click Clear history and Website Data – this will clear everything. For more granular choice, go to Advanced > Website Data.
See documentation: Safari (Mobile)
With Edge you can delete cookies by going to Settings in the top right-hand corner. Go to Clear browsing data and select Choose for what to clear.
To manage cookies select View advanced settings under the settings panel. Under advanced settings there is a section call Privacy and services. This is where you can manage multiple privacy settings, including cookies. Here you have the choice to block all cookies, only third-party cookies, or do not block cookies.
See documentation: Microsoft Edge
In most recent versions of Internet Explorer, you select the cog icon, choose ‘Internet Options’ from the drop-down menu, then select the ‘Privacy’ tab in the pop-up that appears. Select the ‘Advanced’ button for a more custom setting for allowing or blocking first and third-party cookies.
It also enables you to create lists of sites where you always want to allow or block cookies. However, it does not give you the ability to list the cookies you have, or selectively delete them, through this menu.
To do that – you have to use the ‘Developer Tools’, which you can get to either from the cog icon, or by hitting the F12 button on your keyboard. Then select the ‘cache’ menu and view or clear cookies options in the drop down. The problem with this is that have to be on the site in question to do this, and it is not particularly user friendly – most people would be put off by the idea of using the developer tools, because they are not developers!
Under the Internet Options>General tab you also have a tick box that you can set to delete your browsing history when you shut it down. Ticking this will mean all your cookies are deleted when you close your browser.
From Internet Explorer 10 onwards, Microsoft introduced Do Not Track functionality. This will usually have been switched on by default when the browser was first installed. To check your own settings, go to Internet Options>Advanced. Scroll down to the Security Settings, and there you will find a tick box labelled ‘Always send Do Not Track header’. If you tick or un-tick this box, you will need to re-start the browser for the change to take effect.
See documentation: Internet Explorer
To clear cookies and other browsing data in Opera go to Settings. This will open a left sidebar, here click Advanced > Privacy & security > Clear browsing data.
Now you will be able to choose the type of data and timeline that you want to clear. The two data types are basic and advanced. Basic includes browsing history, cookies, and other site data, while advanced includes download history, news usage data, passwords, autofill form data, content settings, hosted app data, and media licenses.