Adobe Flash Cookies: Hidden Web History
Think deleting your web history and cookies from within your web browser deletes all traces of where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing from the prying eyes of peers and advertisers? Think again.
Adobe Flash has its own private storage within your computer which is inaccessible from any browser’s history deletion system – regardless of the browser being used. This post provides more information about said “Flash cookies“, how they’re used, and how to view/delete them.
What’s a “Flash Cookie”?
Just like regular cookies, its nothing more than a small piece of data stored within your web browser’s local hard drive storage directory that is used to store information about you between web pages.
Cookies by themselves are not privacy risks – they’re used to keep you logged in and to keep other similar sessions intact. It’s how they’re used (or abused) that makes them a privacy concern.
Flash cookies differ in that they’re stored differently than other cookies – instead of being placed into the browser’s cookie storage, they’re placed in a separate, (by default) browser-inaccessible location, which means that a cookie without an expiration date will remain there indefinitely.
The bad part is that they can be retrieved from any website, most notable cross-site advertisers, to “track” a user’s browsing habits and where they’ve been.
How To Delete Flash Cookies
Convinced that its time to delete them? Or even better, want to just view these cookies and experience a little deja vu?
Macromedia Adobe has a little utility on their website, called the “Flash Settings Manager“, which allows one to view and/or delete these cookies. It is accessible here.
You might find some interesting stuff in there, especially if on a shared computer.
Better Privacy Practices
If you use Mozilla Firefox as your web browser (and, for all practical purposes, why wouldn’t you?) then there’s an addon that lets you automate the deletion of Flash cookies with every browser shutdown.
It’s called BetterPrivacy, and is downloadable here.
What To Think of All This
We cover privacy and
Macromedia Adobe products (typically in a bad light) frequently on this site, but really – Adobe isn’t evil. They just have a bad history of their products being used as such.
Macromedia Adobe could have placed Flash cookies within the same directory as the other cookies a browser uses so they could be deleted without a trip to Macromedia Adobe’s website, but they didn’t.
And again, this wouldn’t be such a big deal if the cookies automatically deleted themselves rather than sitting there, waiting to be viewed by prying eyes (through the settings manager, no less) or if the cookies weren’t used by advertisers to track users’ online activity.
But they are, so be aware and delete your cookies. This isn’t about covering up what
naughty sites you’ve been to, but it is a privacy issue that everyone should be aware of.
And, that said, I leave you with a humorous image relevant to this post .
Mark (who wishes to keep his last name private) is currently employed as a system administrator for a company in his hometown. He has extensive experience in both networking and programming, and has designed many scalable and high-availability networks. Mark can easily be described as the go-to guy for building quality networks and data centers. He is now well-known for his very humorous posts here at The Coffee Desk. This bio has been corrected for our reader Nigles. I hope he feels special now.