Adobe has created a new proprietary flash cookie which can save a large amount of data, lives indefinitely on the users machine, and cannot be read without accessing Adobe’s website. Wired Magazine reports that UC Berkeley researchers have found that 54 of the top 100 websites are using flash cookies now.
How do Normal Internet Cookies Compare to Adobe Flash Cookies?
Normal Internet Cookies are limited in their size to 4kb. This was part of the RFC 2109 limitations standard which is conformed to by both Internet Explorer and Netscape and was compiled by The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).
These standards limit total cookies that can be saved on a web user’s machine at one time to 300. Additionally there is a per domain limit of 20 cookies. Cookies may hold text or array data yet are still limited to a size of 4kb each. Normally cookies begin their lives in the memory of the browser and only if a cookie is given a longer life span than the life of the browser will it then be written to disk.
Adobe flash cookies (i.e. also called Local Shared Objects (LSO), have a maximum size of 100kb. The user must navigate to the Adobe Flash Player Settings Manager in order to check the flash cookies residing on their machine. There are no other methods of doing this. The larger size they have do allow flash cookies on a website to save at least parts of favorite songs, videos, and photo media in order to make for a richer user experience.
How to Delete Normal Internet and Flash Cookies
Deleting normal Internet cookies is no mystery. Microsoft has posted instructions in several locations on the Internet.
How to Delete Flash Cookies
If a web user makes use of Mozilla Firefox as their browser he or she can make use of an add-on which will allow automation of the deletion of flash cookies. It is called BetterPrivacy. With this utility, all flash cookies are deleted upon each browser shutdown. Otherwise, the only method to delete flash cookies is to navigate to the Adobe Flash Player Settings Manager and maintain or delete the flash cookies on a machine:
- Go to the Settings Manager (Website Storage Settings)
- Go to the far-right tab
- Click “Delete all sites”
- Click Last Tab
To Prevent Websites from Storing Additional Information
For those who want to avoid the Flash Cookies question altogether, the following steps can be taken to prevent storage of Flash Cookies:
- Go to Adobe Flash Player Settings Manager
- Click the Second Tab (Global Storage Settings)
- Set Slider Bar to None
- Uncheck “Allow Third Party Flash Content to store data on your computer
- Click Last Tab
Cookies hold values such as username, last page visited, a logged in switch, etc. Having these items in storage saves the web pages of a website additional data lookups or storing data in another way. Used properly they allow a website to be a much richer user experience and also provide a bit of intelligence to the backend mechanics of a website to enhance the overall user experience.
User information from cookies can also be used to track user movements and preferences and report those back to large advertiser databases. That is one method of how a spam email is born.
There are however huge advertisers that pay some websites with a lot of traffic, large amounts to track their user information by placing their own cookies on the web browser’s machine. The data flows via the cookie back to the advertiser’s website folders and it is hoped those companies all practice good website folder security. Even deleting these cookies via the online Settings Manager will not delete the information in these companies folders.
There are even a few online programs now claiming to make it user voluntary for their cookies to be placed on the user’s machine. A user can opt out although it is clearly stated on the advertiser’s webpage that they have no control over their affiliates. It is up to the savvy web user to find out who the affiliates are and how to find their opt out web pages though. This is after finding who the advertisers are of course. In fact it appears user data is also sold by the large advertiser upon receipt.
In the future, hopefully, management of flash cookies will be built into browsers and made more available to the average Internet user. Along with the popularity will come checks and balances making it easier to protect Internet privacy for the average web user.