Deleting Flash Cookies – Mac OS X

networkWhat is a flash cookie? Well, I should start out by saying that there are really only 3 main ways that a website can keep track of you. One is using HTTP cookies, the other is via flash cookies, and the last is using your IP address.

UPDATE:  (7/01/10) It turns out that the software Safari Cookies will delete your flash cookies as well as your regular cookies for you.  Try it out!  (Link Below)

Why should you care? Well it’s not that big of a deal, but for the most part, it comes down to privacy. How much do you want a website to know about you?   Do you want them to be able to follow you around the internet via their ads?  I try to only give the privilege of my personal information to websites that I trust and use on a regular basis.

Tracking via IP address is perhaps the least useful, as IP addresses change every couple days for most users anyway. Tracking by HTTP cookies is fairly common, and it is very common for sites to use them in order to “remember” you and make it easier for you to log on the next time you visit. Many sites also require your browser to accept cookies in order to use them. I use software called Safari Cookies to automatically delete cookies from all sites except those whom I trust.  The third kind of tracking method, involves storing “flash cookies” on your hard-drive.  These are similar to HTTP cookies, except that they work with the Adobe’s flash plug-in instead of directly within your browser.  They are also much more surreptitious, and more difficult to remove.  Most people don’t even know they exist!  It turns out that each user in Mac OS X has a special folder within their library preferences folder which contains the flash data.  To remove all these “cookies,” you simply delete this folder.  You can even create a separate Automator Workflow which you can open to smooth this process out.

Simply open the Automator Application. (In your applications folder)

Start a new workflow using the “Files and Folders” preset.

Add the “Get specified finder items function,” and input the folder located in Your_User_Folder/Library/Preferences/Macromedia/Flash Player

Add the “Move finder items to trash” function underneath.

That’s it!  Save the set-up as a workflow application in a convenient location. (I like keeping it in a stack in my dock for easy access.)  Whenever, you run it, all your flash cookies will be erased.  I’ve compiled the workflow into an application which you can quickly download and add wherever you like on your hard-drive.  Download from Box.net

So, when exactly would this come in useful?  Say you’re listening to music on Rhapsody.com, and it turns out that your “25 songs a month” has run out.  Bummer, I guess you’ll just have to wait till next month or pay some exorbitant fee.  Or, delete your flash cookies, and the data will all be reset.  It turns out that Rhapsody.com uses flash cookies to keep track of how many songs you’ve accessed from their site.  Delete that information, and for all they know, you may have never been on their site before.

In High Gear…..

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About Jamie

Computers - Macs FIRST Robotics Engineering
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4 Responses to Deleting Flash Cookies – Mac OS X

  1. Pingback: Deleting Flash Cookies – Mac/Windows « In High Gear

  2. Shecky says:

    THANK YOU! This is awesome and not commonly known.

  3. macroshift says:

    Thanks for the tips on the Mac flash cookie removal steps. Very helpful and concise. Well done!

    If you care to reply to my email address, I’d like to hear how your progress towards the USAFA has come along, or with other universities of your choosing.

    Also, let me know your Twitter handle if you have one. I tweeted your two flash cookie removal posts but didn’t know how to credit you on Twitter other than with the blog link.

    Very creative and informative blog you have going. Impressive, fun, and helpful. You will do well in life.

    • Jamie says:

      I did not receive a nomination for USAFA this year, but I did have a qualified status which was good. However, I was able to make a Air Force ROTC scholarship with which I am currently enrolled at Michigan Tech studying Computer Science.

      Thanks for the comments on my blog. I really don’t write on it now because I don’t feel I have much material. Thanks anyway.

      I don’t use twitter. 😉

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