Spyware expert Ben Edelman has written a great piece on anti-spyware programs and cookies. He tested eleven different anti-spyware programs against cookies from 50 advertising systems and posted detailed results including which anti-spyware programs detected which cookies and which programs detected the most cookies.
At the extreme ends of the scale, there are a few programs that don't detect cookies at all, including Microsoft's Windows Defender. PC Tools' Spyware Doctor is at the top of the list with the most cookies detected in Edelman's tests.
Why the fuss about cookies anyway? Some people insist that cookies are spyware. Walt Mossberg is one of those people. Advertisers are concerned because they say cookies are essential and necessary for online enterprise and that cookie rejection and deletion is harmful to the advertising industry and affects the bottom line. Some have accused anti-spyware vendors of fear-mongering to increase sales by labeling cookies as spyware. But when one anti-spyware vendor made cookie detection off by default, many users protested loudly.
My opinion is cookies are not spyware. They are simply small text files with no active code. But I do agree that third party cookies can be a privacy concern. I do not use anti-spyware programs to scan for and delete cookies. If the option is available to turn off cookie detection, I turn it off. But I do control cookies and delete the cookies that I see as having no value for me. I've tried several cookie management apps, and found WinPatrol to be the most convenient for my purposes.
I'd like to know readers' thoughts on cookies. Do you think cookies are spyware? Do you delete cookies, and if so, how do you manage them? Why do you delete them? If not, why not? Do you think anti-spyware programs should detect and remove cookies by default, or should it be optional, or not even part of the program?