WWW FAQs: How can I configure my web browser to accept or reject cookies?

2006-07-26: Since some websites use HTTP "cookies" to keep track of your identity or other personal information, many users don't want to accept them. Other users discover that rejecting all cookies is impractical - without accepting at least temporary "session cookies," it becomes impossible to log in to certain websites.

Some web browsers have a confusing array of cookie-related options. But they boil down to three basic choices:

1. Accepting all cookies. This offers maximum convenience, but different websites can work together to create an accurate picture of you and your browsing habits. Personal privacy is a valid concern.

2. Rejecting all cookies. Good for privacy, but impractical for getting things done on many websites. However, some employers might require this policy.

3. Accepting only "session cookies." This is a sensible approach, because a determined website designer can always keep track of you as an individual for a single session anyway - it's just awkward and annoying for the programmers. Session cookies greatly simplify this, and that's why so many websites require session cookies before you can log in to access useful features.

Changing Your Cookie Settings With Internet Explorer

Windows Internet Explorer users can control their cookie settings by following these steps:

1. Pull down the "Tools" menu of Internet Explorer.

2. Select "Internet Options."

3. Select the "Privacy" tab.

4. Click the "Advanced" button.

5. Check "Override automatic cookie handling."

6. To accept all cookies, select "Accept" for "First-party Cookies." This is good enough for most sites. A few sites might also require "Third-party Cookies" to be set to "Accept," but this is almost always so that they can share your information with other companies. Unfortunately, there are ways to make that work with first-party cookies, too. It's just a little bit harder. Also check the "Always allow session cookies" box.

To reject all cookies, select "Block" for both "First-party Cookies" and "Third-party Cookies." Do not check the "Always allow session cookies" box.

To accept only session cookies, select "Block" for both "First-party Cookies" and "Third-party Cookies," and check the "Always allow session cookies" box. This way, an exception is made for temporary session cookies so that you can log in to websites that require them.

Internet Explorer has a "Prompt" option too, but I don't recommend it. You'll be prompted to accept or reject a cookie so often that you will very quickly decide it's not worth the trouble.

Changing Your Cookie Settings With Firefox

Firefox users can control their cookie settings by following these simple steps:

1. Pull down the "Tools" menu of Firefox.

2. Select "Options."

2. Select the "Privacy" icon.

3. Click on the "Cookies" tab.

4. To accept all cookies, check the "Allow sites to set Cookies" box. Notice that you can make exceptions to this policy by clicking the "Exceptions" button.

To reject all cookies, clear the "Allow sites to set Cookies" box. Again, you can make exceptions to this policy with the "Exceptions" button.

To accept only session cookies, check the "Allow sites to set Cookies" box. Then select "until they expire" from the "Keep Cookies:" menu. This is a nice feature because if the web site tries to set a permanent cookie, Firefox will just accept it temporarily for the current session. The website doesn't realize you're refusing to keep it permanently, so it can't complain!

Other web browsers offer similar cookie-management features.

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