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Delete Flash Cookies to Stop Web Sites from Secretly Tracking You

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.

Manual Settings

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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After installing BetterPrivacy for the first time, go into Options and you’ll be surprised to see how many LSOs are listed.

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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.

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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.

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Using CCleaner

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.

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When you run an analysis, you will see the results, double click on Multimedia – Adobe Flash Player to see the what it found.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Conclusion

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.

Links

Adobe Flash Player Global Settings Panel

BetterPrivacy Firefox Addon

CCleaner Slim No Toolbar

Flush for OS X

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 12/2/09

Comments (14)

  1. Richard

    Thanks for the tip on Firefox add-on Better Privacy. This is great.

  2. Chris Deely

    Dying the next version of flash player (10.1) will respect the browser’s privacy settings automatically. So if you turn off cookies it should turn off LSOs as well.

  3. eldergnome

    Limiting the number of extensions helps keep Firefox trim and fast. Will changing the Flash settings eliminate the need for Better Privacy (which by the way does a fine job)?

  4. Heinz

    An other possibility for firefox is a change in “about:config” :
    open a new tab —> type in : about:config —> click on “I’ll be careful, I promise.” —> than in the search field above type : storage —> search for dom.storage.enabled . This entry is set to true as default. Dobbelclick this entry and it will change to false. Firefox now cannot save any flashcookies.

  5. nfl

    one site that requires flash cookies is NFL Field Pass Live Audio

  6. Barbra

    This, and every other article on the subject, leads you to believe that you can permanently disable Flash Cookies on the Adobe website settings manager. That is not true. The settings will revert to previous values, cookies will once again be stored, and there is nothing you can do other than continually delete them. The whole Adobe Settings Manager page is a lesson in fraud.

  7. Mohamed Farhatullah

    Hi,
    Thanks for selecting and making download job easier. At present I am using Google chrome as a browser. Some one commented that we have got faster browser available. Will you suggest a faster browser and why it is faster.
    Is it possible for you to compare different browsers and advantages and disadvantage of using them?
    Thanks again
    MDF

  8. lesle

    Hey MysticGeek, Good Morning!

    After reading this article in early December, I started watching .SOL files using an open Everything! window on one of my monitors. Everything! uses the Master File Table to list files.

    Since I use only Firefox, I also installed BetterPrivacy. When I close Firefox, I can watch in the open Everything! window the deletion of the the .SOL files.

    So far, so good.

    Then, as is my wont about every two months, in safe mode and in the Command Prompt window, I ran
    chkdsk c: /f /r /v

    Afterwards, starting up into normal mode and opening Everything!, lo and behold, FOURTEEN .SOL files showed up. WTF?

    My speculation is that, somehow, those fourteen files were not in the Master File Table, chkdsk found them and corrected the MFT. But I really don’t know what happened.

    I’ll be doing chkdsk a little more often now.

    And thanks for the informative article!

  9. Gordon H.

    I’ve got to kill the cookie monsters

  10. someguy

    In Linux it is rather simple to deal with this flash cookie pest once and for all.
    ln -s ~/.macromedia/Flash_Player /dev/null
    No flash cookies will ever be stored again.

  11. Peters

    Very informative. I now have a better understanding how control incoming content. Very sound advice. Thank you.

  12. Lukong

    Yo those specs are awesome, you must feel happy,but I do to…also thanks for the advice CCleaner…just doing it again.

  13. Sarah

    Thanks for the firefox add-in info

  14. Rich

    Better privacy will not install on my Firefox Browser. Ever hear of this?

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