Protect your privacy, close your browser

Posted on Thursday, August 30, 2018

We’ve all seen it. You logout from your favourite website or application and you’re asked to close your browser. Do you know why?

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When you log onto a website or an application, it will tell your web browser to store a cookie on your device. These cookies are not meant to be eaten, they are HTML cookies. They are small text files with information containing a key (e.g.: first name), a key value (e.g.: john) and an expiration time (e.g.: 10 minutes, tomorrow, next month, when the browser is closed).

Cookies help store and retrieve important information required for the website operation. All websites that require a login with a username and a password will store one or several cookies indicating the login time and its expiration. For security reasons, websites can usually read only the cookies that they have set themselves. For example, Facebook cannot read a cookie created by Gmail and vice-versa.

After you click “Logout” or “Sign out”, the website will tell your browser to destroy the cookies with data on your login session, effectively terminating it and logging you out. But if you have opened other browser windows or tabs and visited many other websites, you still have many cookies stored in your web browser!

Universities, including University of Ottawa, often use a software with Single Sign-On. When you login into one application, you can freely navigate between others (Gmail, BrightSpace, etc.) without having to re-enter your username and password. When you select “Logout” on one of these applications, you log out of that application only. If you remain logged into many applications during the same browsing session, your privacy may be at risk.

To protect your privacy, close your browser completely after logging out. This ensures the removal of all cookies with data on sites with active sessions.

  • Select Logout. Close your web browser. This means all tabs and windows.

For Mac users, select the Safari/Firefox/Chrome menu option in the top left of your menu bar and then Quit.

  • When using a public computer, logout of your Windows session (click the Windows button and then Logout) or restart the computer.


For more information on Cookies, read What Are Cookies.

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