PrivacyScan 1.2 full review

“Be afraid. Be very afraid,” may be a line from the 1986 film The Fly but it should also apply to our privacy when using the internet. The level we enjoy is questionable given the way that companies track and capture our every online movement. The principal villains are cookies, the small pieces of data that can store anything from your ID and when you last browsed a website to info on every page you visited and what items you clicked on.

Offline privacy is also at a premium. Web browsers store your full online history including websites visited, searches and videos watched, making such info available to anyone who uses your Mac account. Many web browsers have a private browsing mode where no such information is saved and you could always use browser tools like ‘clear recent history’. The sensible alternative is to use an app like PrivacyScan

Quick advice: the optional on-screen tips are really useful when you start using PrivacyScan

Full list: hit the Scan button and see a comprehensive list of all potential risks

PrivacyScan finds and removes any files placed on your Mac that are intended to show your online usage. Once identified, it lets you get rid of all such information in one go by using a number of destructive techniques. It supports most modern browsers (including Camino, Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Safari) and also handles offline use such as recent items in Finder, QuickTime and Preview. 

On launch, PrivacyScan lists all installed apps that it supports. Each app has its own settings where you can choose exactly what data gets eradicated. For instance, in Firefox, browsing history, cache, download history, last session information, recent searches, webpage icons and web/DOM storage can be cleaned as can cookies and form values, although the latter two are kept by default. A click on the Scan button reveals the full results. Deselect any that you don’t want to get rid of and click on the trashcan. Job done. If you change your mind on choices, you can always go back to the preferences before a scan and alter the settings, while on launch you can choose which apps will be scanned. 

It’s a set-up: preferences include standard delete or secure shredding plus individual settings for each app

You got me: add a supported application and PrivacyScan automatically helps you to configure its settings

By default, PrivacyScan just deletes files. If you’re really security conscious though you can go for secure shredding with options for one-, seven- and 35-pass overwriting. Of course, such tasks increase the cleaning time. 

Other nice touches are the optional on-screen tips and the automatic addition of freshly installed apps. 

PrivacyScan is really easy to use but that is also a disadvantage in that it doesn’t let you get into the nuts and bolts of the data. For instance, there is no way of selectively keeping certain website cookies, especially those that control your continued interaction with a website. Such cookies are essential yet they are dealt with on an all-or-nothing basis. While cookies can be removed via individual browsers, it would be better to control this centrally through an ‘ignore list’ in PrivacyScan. Also, the lack of a scheduling feature or any form of automation means that scans only take place when you remember to do them.

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