|Learning About Computers and the Internet|
Customized privacy settings files provide a way for detailed configuration of the cookie settings in Internet Explorer. In this article, the structure and make-up of this type of XML file is explained and examples of specific settings for different kinds of cookie control are given.
In a previous page is a discussion of the advantages of a customized privacy file and instructions on how to install it. Here we will examine the structure and the elements contained in this type of file and how to construct one. It is then a simple matter for anyone interested to create a file tailored to their particular pattern of usage.
Basic structure and ideas contained in a privacy file
The structure of a privacy file uses the format of Extensible Markup Language (XML) and will be familiar to anyone who has seen an XML file before. It also has many similarities with the very familiar HTML. The ideas are sufficiently simple, however, that anyone can easily grasp the the way a customized privacy file can be constructed without any knowledge of XML. The Microsoft description is rather technical; it includes discussions of topics such as tokens that will probably be used only by the most dedicated privacy buffs. I will try to provide a description here aimed at average PC users.
I will describe the building up of a file in several stages. To begin,
we need to put in the lines that will be the first two and last two lines
in the file. This is the way to tell the system what kind of file it
is and where it begins and ends. The first line is the element
Next, we establish actions for three types of cookie, first-party, third-party, and session. (Go here for a discussion of the different types.) There are five possible actions for first-party and third-party cookies but I will limit the discussion to the three actions "accept", "reject", and "forceSession". ("Prompt" is another possible action but that quickly becomes very tiresome.) The meaning of the first two actions is self-explanatory. The last action converts persistent cookies into session cookies and it is this capability that attracts me most to the use of a privacy file. Allowing session cookies themselves is governed by the entries "yes" or "no". The policies that I personally prefer are:
The next table shows a file with all the entries that we have discussed so far. This version probably provides all the functions many average PC users need and its use is discussed on another page.
More possible elements for a privacy file
For more advanced use, there are functions in addition to what has been discussed so far. For example,the security zone "Trusted Sites" can be added to a privacy file. One caveat is that, under some circumstances, the presence of a zone other than the Internet may mean that a Registry edit is required if you wish to revert to the default settings.
have a section on managing cookies for specific Web sites. This section begins
The table below shows a schematic of a privacy file with some of these additional elements. An extensive discussion of privacy files is available at this site.
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