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I personally would be annoyed at a tool for bugging me about tracking cookies - when I don't consider them an issue!

I'm using Windows 7 Home Premium. I'm also using a trial version of SUPERantispyware, which finds 60 or more threats every day or so because of adware tracking cookies. I scan with Trend Titanium Maximum Security and Malwarebytes and they don't find a thing. Should I be concerned with the things that SUPERantispyware is finding? Do I really need SUPERantispyware?

In this excerpt from Answercast #68, I look at issues around privacy and tracking cookies from advertising on websites.

Lots of spyware programs

Let me answer that in the reverse order: do you need SUPERantispyware? I honestly don't know. It depends on what other anti-malware tools you have on your machine and that you are running.

I have no direct experience with SUPERantispyware, but it has a good reputation, I will say that. It's not a tool that I would certainly say, "Run away from." It has a good reputation, and it's one of the tools that may very well be a solid part of someone's anti-malware arsenal.

Baseline computer protection

What's important though is that you have an anti-spyware tool and an anti-malware tool, or potentially a combination of the two. I believe Trend Titanium might actually qualify as a combination of the two.

If you have something already installed on your machine that is taking the role of anti-spyware, you don't really need to install something else in addition to that unless you're specifically fighting some kind of a problem.

I run with Microsoft Security Essentials and only Microsoft Security Essentials. That's typically the baseline that I recommend for most people, for most computers.

Tracking cookies

Tracking cookies are kind of a rat's nest in the sense that there's a huge diversity of opinion of whether or not they are something to be concerned about. It's a fact that it is "opinion" and not hard "yes-and-no"s, that makes this a difficult topic to address.

The fact is: tracking cookies are simply about advertisers tracking your actions on the internet.

Right away, that scares a lot of people. But what they need to realize is that you're not being tracked as an individual. The data might be tracking your individual movements, but nobody's looking at you as an individual. You are just not that interesting. I'm not that interesting.

Seeing more relevant advertising

So for people who hold the mindset where we understand that tracking cookies are basically used to deliver more relevant, more targeted advertising to us as we browse the internet, it's not that big of a deal.

That's apparently the approach that things like Trend Titanium or Malwarebytes may be taking. Or, they have an option that's set to basically ignore things like tracking cookies. Tracking cookies are not something that I personally worry about. I'm sure I've got a ton of them on my machine and it's just not an issue.

Invasion of privacy

Now, the other side of the coin is: there are people who feel that tracking cookies are an invasion of privacy. They are collecting information about your movements on the internet; the sites you visit. Like I said, nobody's looking at it at an individual level - and yet it is theoretically possible that data could be kept allowing them to do so.

We just don't know. So the fact is, it can be seen as some kind of an invasion of privacy.

For those folks who feel that way, then yes, tracking cookies are an issue. In a case like that, SUPERantispyware is reflecting the correct report; there are tracking cookies.

Tracking cookies come back

As you've noted, they come back almost immediately. As soon as you start browsing the internet, as soon as you start browsing sites that have advertising, your machine will have tracking cookies on it.

You can have your browser disallow certain types of tracking cookies, but there will still be other kinds of tracking cookies that are left on your machine. Unfortunately, you just can't block all cookies; that doesn't work because too many websites these days require cookies to work.

It's how many websites remember the fact that you're logged on when you go from one page to the next. Imagine having to login every time you click to open a message in your email program. It just doesn't make sense. It's cookies that are the primary technology that's used to make the internet a viable place, an easy place to maneuver around in and to work around in.

So, what it really boils down to is your own personal level of comfort with the kinds of things I've talked about. Like I said, it's not something I worry about and I would not be at all concerned about a tool telling me about tracking cookies.

I personally would be annoyed at the tool for bugging me with tracking cookies when I don't consider them an issue. On the other hand, if you feel that they are an issue, then it's something you would want your tools to tell you about.

Article C6005 - November 8, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Chris Lafore
November 8, 2012 11:16 AM

I noticed that in your article you recommended Trans Titanium. I can't find this program anywhere- can you please provide a link? Thanks !

Chris Lafore
November 8, 2012 11:43 AM

After further research, I believe you may have meant trend micro titanium- am I correct?

November 8, 2012 5:15 PM

@Chris Lafore,
You are right. That was a short-term typo on the site. Also, it doesn't sound like Leo was actually "recommending" that product - just mentioning it because the questioner mentioned it.

Here's his recommendation page:

November 9, 2012 8:53 AM

I'm not a Tracking Cookie fan. At the end of a browsing secession I run two small programs.
1- Flash Cookie View

2- Cookienator

And somethimes even Spybot.
They always find something.

Of course they're always going to find something. The question is, is it anything to worry about. My take: typically no. I know I don't.

November 9, 2012 8:53 AM

Hi Leo, My credit union informed me that I was
erasing their cookies. I also have an online bank
account. I did not get complaints from my bank.
I run antivirus checks, disk cleanup, defrag and
CClear every Saturday. I found that I had checked
cookies in Cclear. I unchecked cookies & rebooted

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