How do I avoid cookies?

Old 09-13-19, 05:58 AM
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How do I avoid cookies?

Not the chocolate chip kind...

If I visit say - Aston Martin's - website on my laptop, when my wife plays on Facebook on her phone, she'll get ads from that website.

With Christmas coming up, I'd like to be able to see her open a few unexpected presents. How can I keep my shopping adventures private? (Not that she's getting a $100k British sports car.)
Old 09-13-19, 06:50 AM
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Try browsing in an 'Incognito" browser session. Chrome has it. Not sure about others.
Old 09-13-19, 08:26 AM
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To directly answer your question, most (if not all) browsers can be configured so that they will refuse to accept all cookies (just look around in the browser's configuration settings). However, you can't make a secure online transaction without accepting a cookie because that's how the vendor's website recognizes the computer at the other end of the transaction.

But I don't think cookies are your problem. Cookies are system-specific so I don't think cookies on your laptop have any influence over what your missus is seeing on her smartphone. More likely it's IP Targeting, which is a fairly new development. As the name suggests, they're pushing advertising on all the devices originating from the same IP address.

Most homes have a 'dynamic' IP address, which means it changes whenever the ISP feels the need, but it's not uncommon for it to remain unchanged for months. In my case my external address (is dynamic but) hasn't changed in years. And that advertising technique is effective for so long as my external IP address remains the same.

To obscure your real IP address, you could try one of the free VPN services. That way the IP address that the folks at Aston Martin will see is that of the VPN's exit node, which is the place where you 're-enter' the regular Internet after leaving their private network. Many of the for-fee VPNs offer a dumbed down version of their network that's free to use (some don't even require a registration). But I've never had need of their services for that reason so I don't know whether they offer security that's suitable for making online purchases. Some examples for free VPNs are Web Proxy, Mega Proxy, Zend2, K Proxy, and Hidester. That's not a carefully researched list, they're just the convenient to use ones I have bookmarked. I don't know which of them -- if any -- would be suitable for making online purchases through. Hopefully other DIY-ers will answer with further information in that regard.

Another solution is the (free) Tor anonymizing browser. Tor is a version of the Firefox browser that only can access the Internet through their own bespoke private network known as "The Onion Router" (or Tor for short).

The 'onion' part is an allusion to the layers of security their nework is wrapped in. It started as a US intelligence community project for securing online transmissions which DARPA then further developed to create a virtual network that would allow people who live under restrictive governments to anonymously access websites that their government would rather they didn't see.

The problem(s) with Tor is that the encryption that is part and parcel to its security slows your web browsing. And also in the interest of security, Tor disables some common browser services, some of which can be enabled by the end user (against their objections), but some cannot. Adobe Flash player probably is the biggest service that Tor absolutely refuses to enable because of the risk it poses to anonymity. These limitations not only can affect your browsing experience, they also can complicate (or completely prevent) securely logging in to any given website.

The biggest problem (IMHO) with Tor is that not everyone using The Onion Router network does so for legitimate reasons. Some use its anonymity to shield their identity when they're hacking/cracking, etc. So a lot of websites block the IP addresses of all of the Tor exit nodes. Or worse, guard their website with reCAPTCHA.

In its default configuration, Tor will not accept 3rd-party cookies but does accept 1st-party cookies, all of which are deleted when you start a new browser session. I frequently us the Tor browser (on Windows, Linux & Android), and there are some secure websites I log into when using it, but as a rule I try to use a 'regular' browser for that sort of thing. And of course it means you have to install the Tor browser software (available here).

Sorry to have raised more questions than I've answered but the crux of the biscuit (I *think*) is that this isn't a cookie problem.
Old 09-13-19, 08:30 AM
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All browsers have a "private" browser session. In Firefox, go to menu (the three horizontal lines at the far right) and click on it. You'll see "New private window".
If you're using Google to search on your phone, you can also request "Turn on incognito".
Old 09-13-19, 09:39 AM
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Fred, nice, thorough reply. Thanks.

You answered what was going to be a follow up question about how my wife doesn't use my laptop, and I don't use her phone, so "how come?..."

I'm familiar with Incognito in Chrome. (Control N, BTW) I guess I'll use it more often.
Old 09-13-19, 10:16 AM
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Good post Fred. Name:  thumb.jpg
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I wouldn't recommend using Tor for purchases. The exit node is a wildcard and may not be secure..... although the rumors are the govt. runs many of them.

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