Cookies can be real opinion dividers. They’re either tasty American-style biscuits or evil ways to spy on internet users as they surf the internet.
That’s not to say they’re always evil. There is a limited application for storing user site preferences and sessions IDs, useful when shopping online, or letting the BBC weather website remember for which region you’d like your local forecast.
For those tracking practices, you can look to useful browser plugins such as Ghostery, which blocks known advertising and analytics companies from looking over your shoulder.
And for the fine-grained control of traditional web cookies, there are useful apps like Cookie.
SweetP Productions Cookie is an OS X application that can help you look after all those data files that webmasters like to store on your computer. It works with Safari, Firefox, Chrome, Chromium and Camino browers.
It can run as a regular app visible in the Dock, or with just a menu bar item, or even entirely invisible to the user.
On first setup, a wizard asks which browsers you’d like it to work with. Then you’re given a simple option: do you want to accept Tracking Cookies ‘used by advertising companies for collecting information about what sites you’re visiting, time of visits, your location, etc...’
You can then opt which cookies, if any, you would like to keep as ‘Favorites’, and even import these from a previously exported file. Then you’re asked if you’d like Cookie to clear the browser cache, in order to remove EverCookies.
These are the persistent cookies that have been designed to automatically respawn themselves from various secret caches, so that even when you do manually try to delete cookies from each browser, you’ll often seen them reinstall themselves later.
Then you select your preference for the removal of unwanted data. Options here are when Cookie quits; when a browser is quit; and/or every n mins while the browser is open.
Finally, the wizard asks about Cookie display options – whether you’d like to see it running, and if you’d like it to start when you login to your computer.
We found Cookie to work well, and is especially appreciated for its work in Safari. Unlike Firefox, for example, which can be set to automatically delete all cookies whenever you quit the browser, Safari requires you to do this manually whenever you’d like to clear out your latest unrequested harvest of spyware files.
Sometimes the deletion of cookies is not as instantaneous as you might expect. The app’s developer Russell Gray explained that Safari’s cookies are actually a little stubborn to remove, as they seem to re-spawan after Safari has quit.
So Cookie will actually parse and remove all unwanted Safari cookies twice each time Safari quits – once immediately, and then again eight seconds later.
As well as regular cookies, Cookie will also manage Flash cookies and databases. And you can click on the menu bar item any time to see at a glance how many cookies you’ve accrued in recent surfing, as well as delete them all there and then. Or reset the clock if you have set a countdown timer before their auto-deletion, in the event you’re shopping and wish to keep your virtual basket full.