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Is "private browsing" really "private"?

28789 Views 4 Replies Latest reply: Sep 29, 2011 7:32 PM by d.sprinter RSS
MacConvert54 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
Currently Being Moderated
Oct 19, 2010 8:43 AM
When using "private browsing" what is private and what is public information? I notice that when I use private browsing, the websites still seem to access and track information about my computer. Can you explain what is supposed to occur when using this feature?
Aluminum MacBook Pro, Mac OS X (10.5.5), 15/2.4/2X1GB/250/SD
  • Klaus1 Level 8 Level 8 (43,410 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Oct 19, 2010 10:11 AM (in response to MacConvert54)
    Not as private as you might think: ture-actually-private/

    and then Apple's own advice from here:

    "Note that the Private Browsing option does not prevent Safari from collecting cookies (the preference files automatically generated by many websites). The Reset Safari option clears all cookies. If you want to delete only certain ones, choose Preferences from the Safari menu, click the Security tab, and then click Show Cookies. You can select and delete individual cookies from the list that appears. Careful, though — if you’re a frequent web user, this list can be very, very long."

    which is itself incomplete, the relevant part being 'If you want to delete only certain ones.

    To that end it is useful to have Safari Cookies installed, which is the only cookie manager available for Safari:

    which automatically deletes all cookies not marked as 'favourites' when closing Safari. It does the same for Flash Cookies, but they are subject for themselves:

    From this website:

    For those who do not know about Flash cookies, more properly referred to as Local Shared Objects (LSO), they operate in a similar way to regular browser cookies but are stored outside the purview of your browser, meaning you cannot delete them from within your browser, whether Safari, Firefox, Opera or any other. Typically they are issued from sites or 3rd party sites that contain Adobe Flash content. Since virtually all internet advertising is  delivered in Flash, Google/Doudleclick and all other internet advertising companies are sure to be tracking your browsing behavior with Flash cookies. These companies can see you traverse the Internet as you come upon the plethora of sites that contain their embedded advertising. Check out the Wikipedia entry here.

In Mac OS X they are stored in the following location:
/User’s Home Folder/Library/Preferences/Macromedia/Flash Player/#SharedObjects

The settings for the Flash cookies are stored in:
/User’s Home Folder/Library/Preferences/Macromedia/Flash Player/

In OS X Local Shared Objects, or Flash Cookies, are appended with a .sol suffix. Flush deletes all the Flash cookies (.sol) and their settings.

    Flush can be downloaded from that page.

    If you want to retain certain Flash cookies but not others, the excellent add-on for Safari called SafariCookies now includes a setting for automatically deleting flash cookies you don't want to retain, when Safari is shut down, in the same as it deals with ordinary cookies:

    which not only does that but much more equally useful stuff!

    This article covers the issue in more depth:

    Flash cookies are also known as 'Zombie Cookies' and are used by a number of firms, including Hulu, MTV, and Myspace. Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at the internet security firm Sophos, told BBC News that the source of the trouble was Adobe Flash itself, which he called "one of the weirdest programs on the planet".

    "I think it's highly unlikely that these large companies have abused Flash cookies - which are different from browser cookies - with malicious intent," he said.

    "I think it's much more likely that the vast majority of users are simply oblivious to the bizarre way in which Adobe allows them to configure the software."

    And a more recent article: t=cse
    20" 2.1GHz iSight iMac G5,, Mac OS X (10.5.8), iLife 9 but iMovie 6, QTPro 7.6.6, Safari 5.0.2
  • Carolyn Samit Level 10 Level 10 (84,160 points)
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    Oct 19, 2010 11:28 AM (in response to MacConvert54)

    According to the dialog box when you enable Private Browsing, Safari won't remember pages you visit, search history, or Autofill. That's all it does.

    There are some Safari Extensions available you might like such as Incognito available here. The plus for Extensions is that you can turn them on or off without completely uninstalling.

    27" iMac 3.2GHz Intel Core i3 MBAir iPad iPhone 3GS iLife iWork Pages Keynote, Mac OS X (10.6.4), QTPro Intuos Tablet Epson Olympus Airport JBL
  • GHyde Calculating status...
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 13, 2010 3:27 PM (in response to MacConvert54)
    I've found that with each update over the last year+, Safari has become less and less Private. It's to the point that the concept of private browsing in Safari is a joke.

    Don't know exactly why I'm posting this since my last 4 posts over the last two years have yet to garner a single response, but here it is.
    MacBook5,1 2 GHz, Mac OS X (10.6.4)
  • d.sprinter Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 29, 2011 7:32 PM (in response to Klaus1)



    The first few links you list are from 2008. Are they still valid? I tried some of the instructions listed on the first two links and they seemed outdated. They didn't work and other people had problems producing any results as well.


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