When you’re using your Mac online you leave two distinct trails. The first is the typical online trail of which sites you visited, where email went (and from), what you downloaded, what videos you watched, and so on.
It’s difficult to erase all those online trails. The second is the trail you leave on your Mac. Nearly everything you do on a Mac, most apps you use, documents you open, sites you visit, leave a trail. Is that good or bad?
Follow The Yellow Brick Road
Paranoid Mac users rejoice. Safari has a privacy setting. Click Safari in the Menubar, select Private Browsing, turn it on. Safari won’t record site history, downloads, cookies, form information, searches.
Wait. There’s more. Well, really, it’s less. What about Safari plugins?
While Private Browsing might be safe enough, Adobe’s Flash Player plugin still leaves behind information about sites you visited. Is there anything else you can do so privatize your Mac?
What about all those other Mac apps that use the internet? Don’t they save information, too? Can you get rid of it?
Tiptoe Through Private Tulips
While it’s difficult and cumbersome to erase your online trail (information recorded by sites and servers; not information recorded on your Mac), it’s easier to delete such private information from your Mac using Tiptoe.
Many popular Mac apps store information in caches and logs on your Mac. Safari does it. iChat does. So do Firefox, Skype, Pages, Numbers, Chrome, Keynote, and many others.
Tiptoe brings a similar Safari Private Browsing feature to other Mac apps. What these apps leave behind is a trail—when they were used, what sites were visited, and other information in cache files.
If you’re sufficiently paranoid about who knows what you’ve been doing on your Mac, Tiptoe can help by erasing specific information so you can use Skype or iChat or Safari or Firefox and worry less.
Set up is easy. Open Tiptoe and select the app you want to use.
Details for each app will tell you what Tiptoe will do when you quit the app. This includes clearing history, clearing windows from your session, emptying the cache files, and so on.
What do you do if you’ve been using your Mac and visited sites already and want to cover the tracks you left before installing Tiptoe?
Tiptoe has a reset feature which lets you delete the tracks that are already there.
Tiptoe’s information deletion capability might be good for the average paranoid Mac user who worries about browsing and movie watching online, or perhaps terminal sessions, and online chatting via Skype or iChat.
For the really paranoid user you’ll be disappointed that Tiptoe doesn’t have a huge list of supported apps. Many of the basic apps we use are there, including major browsers. Another, less expensive way to remove a trail is to use OS X’s Guest Account. Apple says files and data recorded in the Guest Account are deleted when the Guest user logs out.
Our really geeky Mac360 readers will point out that even deleted trails can be followed (with the right knowledge and tools), so Tiptoe and Guest Account usage have obvious limits.