As hinted in Paranoid cookie management, Firefox offers very fine-grained cookie management capabilities compared with some other browsers.
To turn on fine-grained cookie management in Firefox:
- Make sure the Accept cookies from sites option is checked in the Privacy tab of Preferences (on Unix or Linux) or Options (on MS Windows).
- Set the Keep until: drop-down list to ask me every time.
Once you do this, every time a site tries to give your browser a cookie, you will be asked to decide whether to accept or deny the cookie, and how long it should be kept. You will have three options for how to deal with the cookie:
- Click Allow to allow the cookie as normal, as though the drop-down list option you selected was they expire instead of ask me every time.
- Click Allow for Session to ensure the cookie will be accepted, but will then be cleared as though the drop-down list option you selected was I close Firefox instead of ask me every time.
- Click Deny to ensure the cookie is not accepted on your computer at all.
A checkbox allows you to decide whether this choice will be used for all cookies that specific domain tries to give you or just this one specific cookie. Make sure you check or uncheck the box as desired before clicking the Allow, Allow for Session, or Deny button.
It doesn't get any more automated than that with built-in Firefox functionality, though; there are no auto-accept or auto-deny rules you can set based on any criteria other than whether it is a cookie for a specific domain. At the moment, Web browsers simply do not offer stateful firewall-style filtering rules. The main consequence of this is that it places more of the weight of cookie management on the shoulders of the user who wants fine-grained control.
A number of cookie management extensions exist, which can provide tools that are easier to use for ensuring you accept the cookies you want and deny those you don't. One that I have used for a while now, and tend to like in general, is called Cookie Whitelist, With Buttons. I use it to smooth over some of the rough spots in ease of use for the Firefox built-in cookie management capabilities so that I can get more fine-grained control without having to sacrifice too much time to the gods of micro-management. Getting the workflow of cookie management with Firefox fine-grained controls and Cookie Whitelist, With Buttons down pat, so that things run perfectly smoothly, takes some familiarity with the tools. If you do not want to learn a new (but not terribly complex) skill, this may not be for you.
I do not know of any Firefox extensions that provide similar search capabilities, so that wart on Firefox cookie management functionality remains. Even without that search capability, I still find the benefits of fine-grained control with Firefox outweigh the detriments. Your mileage, as always, may vary.
Chad Perrin is an IT consultant, developer, and freelance professional writer. He holds both Microsoft and CompTIA certifications and is a graduate of two IT industry trade schools.