Why, when I run my anti-spyware programs, do I get the same results week
after week? It’s always the same tracking cookies and I quarantine them but
they never go away. Why bother running these programs if they only find the
same junk over and over?
The short answer is because you probably visit the same web sites regularly,
and they put those cookies back the next time you visit. Run your anti-spyware
program again, and it sees that they’ve returned, and dutifully reports
Some cookies can be identified as “tracking” cookies – cookies that could be
used to track your movement around the internet. Personally my reaction is
“So?”, but some people do care.
But you raise a good point. All these reports are so much noise to many
people, and get in the way of real issues when they pop up.
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Whether or not cookies are truly spyware is up for debate. Cookies can be
used to provide you with useful functionality like remembering who you are when
you visit a web site so you don’t have to login each time, or so you don’t have
to re-type all of your personal information each time you fill out a sales
Cookies can also be used to track your movements on the internet. The most
common case is cookies called “third party” cookies – cookies placed by
advertisers on various web sites. But to quote my previous article How do I
delete cookies? And just what are cookies, anyway?: “Now before the
paranoia kicks in, let’s be clear about something – they don’t care about
you specifically. Sorry, but you’re just not that
Tracking cookies generate a tremendous volume of information that is
processed in aggregate … meaning that advertisers using them can determine
things like “this many people who visit site A also go to site B, so we should
beef up our advertising purchase for site B.” They’re not saying “Oh,
look, Leo just visited site A again. And there he goes to site B.”. You and I
as individuals just aren’t that interesting. Analyzed as a group, however, the
information can provide interesting trends and information.
The paranoia has a basis in fact, however, since even though it’s more work
than it’s worth, cookies could be used to trace my individual visits
across various web sites.
issues than cookies that anti-spyware programs do catch and resolve.”
So, does that make it spyware?
I guess so, but as I said earlier, I really don’t care.
So there are various options:
Many anti-spyware programs have the option to control what they report on.
You might be able to turn off reporting of cookie related issues. This is what
I elect to do.
In your browser, you can turn off what are called “third party” cookies.
This means that when you visit a web site that site will be allowed to use
cookies, but advertisers on that site (the third parties) will not.
Again in your browser you can turn off cookies completely. No site will be
will simply not work, and on other sites you’ll have to do by hand much of what
the cookies were doing for you – like retyping your information.
You’ll note that not running an anti-spyware program was not an option.
The fact is that there are many other more serious issues than cookies that
anti-spyware programs do catch and resolve. Things you and I would
care about. If you’re even a semi-savvy computer user they’re infrequent but
they can happen. You want that anti-spyware program to be there to catch
And as always, make sure that your anti-spyware program, like your
anti-virus program, is getting regular updates to it’s database of malware.
That way you’re sure to catch the new and latest threats as soon as