Why it’s Important to Clear Search & Browser History

The browsers on our computers and smart devices don’t just enable us to search and surf the web – they remember things. If you want to bookmark a web page, revisit a forgotten one, and want websites to remember your passwords, form data and preferences, then browsers have it all covered.

But at what point does all this data storing and tracking of our internet lives become an area of concern? Cyber security experts weren’t overly anxious about this sort of thing until, in a very short space of time, the world suddenly became not only tied to surfing, but to online shopping and social media.

If browsers remember our surfing history and the information we enter, that’s a ton of data being stored. And nowadays, where data exists online, so does danger; websites, internet providers, malware and spyware operators – among other ominous parties – could potentially exploit that data (by snooping on our activities), and it’s a threat worth taking seriously.

While Browser History of course refers to a user’s search and surfing habits, the files generated are nuanced, with different purposes and functions. ‘Active Logins’ is used to keep a user signed in (even when navigating away to surf a different site). ‘Browsing History’ simply stores every page you’ve visited, and ‘Download History’ lists all files downloaded via the browser.

‘Cache’ refers to the storage of temporary files of web pages and media, etc (since these are stored locally, it means your browser has less information to load per webpage, making browsing quicker). ‘Cookies’ allow websites to track a user’s login status and site preferences, among other things, with third-party varieties able to gather user information across multiple websites.

‘Form’ and ‘Search Bar Data’ is what it says on the tin, containing any information a user has entered into forms and the search bar. Then there’s ‘Offline Website Data’ which is stored to allow a user to access information offline, and ‘Site Preferences’ which saves user-specified configurations, among other preferences.

Since browsers store a fair bit of data, it’s therefore recommended that you either regularly clear certain portions of your Browser History – or simply clear it all. And for two good reasons: browser/system performance, and user security.

While the cookies and cache files stored on your device may be small, the sheer volume that you wind up accumulating over time (from countless web pages) will likely start to slow down your browsing experience and or system. It’s not that these files are all inherently bad – you just don’t want too many of them!

As for the technical/functional and security side, why would you want to put up with buggy web pages (which can occur due to new features and outdated cache files) and make it easier for websites, third party cookies, among other dubious forces of the internet, to follow your movements?