Most users are already aware of the risks presented by cookies, the small data files that browsers save on our computers to remember things like login details, or Website preferences. The capability to clear out cookies is built into every browser, but few people realise that Adobe Flash Player–the plug-in used to provide YouTube video and Web games–has a similar system that’s annoyingly difficult to monitor and clean. This has led to Websites abusing the system in order to track users.
Flash Player refers to its system of small data files as local shared objects, or LSOs, although the rest of the world calls them Flash cookies. They’re typically used to store login details for Websites, or perhaps game scores on Flash games. They can even be used to store larger amounts of data for Flash apps, such as image editors or office programs.
You can see how many LSOs are stored on your system by visiting the Global Storage Settings panel page on Adobe’s Website. You can also clear LSOs there and discover what sites they came from (although beware that porn sites are some of the heaviest users and abusers of LSOs, so if you’re viewing the LSOs of a shared computer, you could dig-up dirt you weren’t expecting.)
Adobe has begun work on a number of systems to make it infinitely easier to control LSOs. For example, forthcoming releases of Flash player will add an applet to Control Panel (or System Preferences on a Mac) to allow the same degree of control over LSOs as can be found at Adobe’s Website.
Adobe has also been working with Mozilla and Google to integrate LSO management features directly into Firefox and Chrome, respectively.