If you like to keep your browsing private, you probably already clear your history and cookies after a session, but your tracks are not completely gone. There’s also another type of cookie to get rid of called Flash Cookies or Local Shared Objects (LSOs). Today we take a look at how to get rid of these pesky files and improve your privacy.
What are They?
Flash Cookies or LSOs are cookie type files used by Adobe Flash Player and they save your settings and preferences when watching video on a website for better playback. They can also store unique identifiers that keep track of the sites you’re visiting. Some of them will also use the collected data to recreate regular tracking cookies even after you’ve deleted them.
Note: Changing Flash Settings on the Adobe page is kind of weird, so make sure to check things carefully.
One option is to not allow the LSOs on your machine in the first place. To do this, you need to go to the Global Storage Settings panel on the Adobe site (Link Below) and make the appropriate changes. The Settings Manager on the Adobe site is not a screen shot, but is the actual panel for making changes to how Flash will behave in your browser. If you move the slider all the way to None, then when a Flash app wants to use storage space (insert a Flash Cookie) you’ll need to give it permission.
In this example I set the local storage to None, and now when I go to MySpace and try to play a song, it asks for permission to store the data.
You can also turn them completely off by moving the slider all the way down to none and check the box Never Ask Again. If you this and uncheck the box next to Allow third-party content to store data on your computer, it will keep advertiser flash cookies off your machine, but also makes many flash apps not work.
To delete existing Flash Cookies, click on the Website Storage Settings tab (located all the way to the right of the screen) and click on the Delete all sites button.
You can right-click on a Flash app on a particular page and change the settings as well. Just remember it will only apply to that app on that page, and won’t change the setting globally.
While this method works, it can be tedious and annoying, let’s take a look at some other solutions.
Delete LSOs in Firefox
For users of Firefox, there is a quality Add-on called “BetterPrivacy” which allows you to delete flash cookies after each browsing session.
After installing BetterPrivacy for the first time, go into Options and you’ll be surprised to see how many LSOs are listed.
You can go in and manage different settings like deleting LSOs on exit, application start, by timer, create a shortcut key to delete LSOs and more.
One neat option you might want to select is to add LSO item to the Firefox “Clear History” dialog which isn’t there without the Add-on.
If you use IE or any other browser, then another great option for removing LSOs is with CCleaner. By default the Flash Cookies are set to be removed, but you might want to double check to make sure. In the Cleaner section click on the Applications tab, the scroll down to Multimedia and make sure Adobe Flash Player is checked.
When you run an analysis, you will see the results, double click on Multimedia – Adobe Flash Player to see the what it found.
Depending on how much browsing you’ve done and the last time you deleted the LSOs you might be surprised how many are found. Just click Run Cleaner to get rid of them.
When you download CCleaner make sure you’re getting the “Slim” version which does NOT include an attempt to add a worthless toolbar to your machine. We have provided a direct link to the CCleaner Slim below. Another option would be to download it from ninite.com which denies installation of extra Crapware automatically.
Rather than run CCleaner manually, you might want to check out these two articles from The Geek on running it silently via a Hotkey and automatically each night on XP, Vista, and Windows 7.
- Setup CCleaner to Automatically Run Each Night in Windows 7, Vista, and XP
- Create a Shortcut or Hotkey to Run CCleaner Silently
For this tutorial we showed Flash Cookies on a Windows system, but they also will show up on your Mac or Linux computer as well. You will need LSOs on your computer for certain Flash Apps to work at the time you’re at the site. However, you don’t need them on your system after you’re done playing a game or listening to music. Flash Cookies are used by websites to track your browsing habits and some recreate regular cookies even after you’ve deleted them. You’ll definitely want to get rid of Flash Cookies (LSOs) if you’re concerned about online privacy. With these tips, and your regular history deletion, it will help you gain better privacy online.
Programmer by day, geek by night, The Geek, also known as Lowell Heddings, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on Google+ if you'd like.
- Published 12/2/09