Cookie Stumbler 2: Tom's Mac Software Pick

Control Your Web Browser's Cookie Uptake

Cookie Stumbler icon
Courtesy of WriteIt! Studios

To many of us, it seems that the web browser was created primarily as a life support system for cookies. Marketers are happy to keep filling up your browser until it overflows with little cookie demons.

If you take the time to look at Safari’s list of stored cookies, you may feel faint at the sheer number of sites and ad services that are likely tracking your every movement around the web.

Cookie Stumbler 2 is an app that lets you take control of which cookies your browser is allowed to store, which ones should be rejected, and finally, which ones should be purged at scheduled cleaning times.

Pros

  • Frequent updates to its cookie definitions.
  • Allows you to keep or blacklist cookies.
  • Cookies, caches, and history cleaning.
  • Scheduled cleanings.
  • Works with multiple browsers.
  • Runs as an independent app, not a browser plug-in.

Cons

  • Requires yearly subscription for cookie definition updates.
  • Minimal documentation included.

Cookie Stumbler from WriteIt! Studios combats cookies used to track your every move on the web. These tracking cookies build up a profile of you that includes demographic information, such as gender, age, likes, and purchase habits. Some sites, such as Google, store cookies so they can learn which sites you visit, and then use that information to tailor ads on websites to better appeal to you.

Amazon likes to use cookies to track the products you've looked at, and then suggest, incessantly, that you will just love these similar products. And that’s only a more benign example of how cookies are routinely used.

Cookies do have their good side. Many sites use cookies as part of a login credential, allowing easier access to the site's features, or simply as session cookies, little tokens that let the site know you’re the same person when you move from page to page within the site.

Because cookies can be helpful or bad, depending on your point of view, controlling cookies isn't a one-size-fits-all affair.

That's where Cookie Stumbler comes in.

Tracking Cookies Be Gone

Cookie Stumbler's strength lies in its ability to recognize cookies used for tracking your movements and likes. Using a database of known cookie types, Cookie Stumbler can compare the cookies stored in your browser with its cookie definition list and let you know if a cookie is designed for ad tracking, contains secure data (such as encrypted site login info), or is just a run-of-the-mill session cookie.

But letting you know the cookie type isn't that useful by itself. Cookie Stumbler lets you control which cookies won't be accepted, which ones should be retained, and which ones can be stored for a short time and then swept away by Cookie Stumbler's scheduled cleanings.

Cookie Stumbler isn't limited to cookies; its cleanup function can also clear out browser history, cached data, downloaded files, and Flash and SilverLining cookies.

Using Cookie Stumbler

Cookie Stumbler is a standalone app that can be used to clean up cookie storage in 10 of the most popular web browsers, including Safari, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.

Cookie Stumbler opens to a single-window layout, with a row of buttons across the top that you use to select various Cookie Stumbler functions.

The Home button seems to be just a feed of WriteIt! Studios' blog, which leaves four useful buttons to examine.

The Source button is the biggie. Here you can select which browser to examine for cookie content, and control how the browser deals with cookies. You can even view and control all browser cookies at once.

After selecting a browser, or all browsers, a list of cookies stored in each browser is displayed. The list includes the domain where the cookie originated, if it's from a bookmarked site, if it's encrypted, if it's a tracking cookie, and if it's in the blacklist or whitelist.

You can inspect any cookie by simply double-clicking its listing in the window.

Doing so brings up a cookie inspector that lists some additional information about the cookie, including the domain, the country the server is located in, and the ability to delete it, add it to the blacklist, or add it to the whitelist.

You don’t have to use the cookie inspector to add a cookie to your whitelist; you can do that directly from the list of cookies by placing a check mark in the Keep box next to the cookie.

Cookie Stumbler marks known tracking cookies by rendering them in red text. But don’t delete a cookie willy-nilly just because Cookie Stumbler says it has tracking properties. For instance, my bank's website is listed in red, but I don’t want to delete its cookie. If I did, then every time I tried to log into the site, I would have to supply answers to a set of security questions, something I really don’t want to do all the time. So, even though Cookie Stumbler says it's a tracking cookie, it's going into my whitelist so it will never be removed.

Once you decide which cookies belong in the blacklist or whitelist, you can then tell Cookie Stumbler to clean up the cookies.

Cookie Stumbler is $19.90 for a 2 Mac license and 1 year of cookie definitions. A demo is available.

See other software choices from Tom's Mac Software Picks.

Published: 4/4/2015