Why You Should Delete Cookies Before Signing in to Google or Facebook

Just in case you don’t have enough privacy and security issues to worry about already …

Whenever you use Google or Facebook without being logged in to an account, a cookie is saved to the local system. It is anonymous at this point in time even though it reveals information about your browsing habits to the company that set it. Google for instance knows that you have searched for this and that but cannot link the information to you as a person.  The company even states that it uses anonymous identifiers in its privacy policy.

The same is true for Facebook which may notice that you visit sites that display Facebook widgets but cannot link that to an account on the site.

If you decide to sign in to an account afterwards, all previous activities linked to the “anonymous you” are now linked to the user account. This is the case because the same root domain cookie is being used by Google and Facebook to track anonymous and logged in users.

google cookies

So, these companies know all sites that you have visited in the past if their contents were used on those sites. The same is true if you sign out of an account and visit sites afterwards that use these contents as well.

Google may know that you visited that NSFW website even if you made sure you did not search for it directly and signed out of your Google account prior to accessing it. The same is true for Facebook as long as sites you visit load widgets, apis or other elements from Google or Facebook domains.

This means basically that the data that these companies collect about you is only anonymous if you never sign in to an account on these sites, block third-party requests from these companies by default, or delete cookies regularly and especially before signing in or after signing out of an account.

The first option sounds easy enough. You may use two different browsers for that for example, or use private browsing mode and regular mode using a single browser.

The blocking of third-party requests can be blocked through the use of add-ons like NoScript for Firefox or Scriptsafe for Chrome to name two options.

The deletion of cookies requires extensions as well. While you can configure web browsers to delete cookies on exit automatically or manually, it won’t help you during browsing sessions.

A browser extension like Self-Destructing Cookies can be used to delete cookies as soon as you leave the site they have been set on.

Tip: You can list all cookies a site saved on connect by pressing F12 in your browser of choice and switching to the storage tab of the Developer Tools interface that opens up. There you should find a list of cookies saved by the domain and third-party sites.

Please note that this is true for other companies and services as well but more often than not to a lesser degree considering the popularity of Google and Facebook on the Internet.


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