My neighbor reads our local newspaper from one end to the other. He retains what he reads, and as a result considers himself to be very well informed about local events.
'Hey Eagle,' said my neighbor (let's call him Mike). 'What do you think about all that stuff that they found on that county commissioner's computer?'
'What stuff is that?' I asked.
'A Scappoose lawyer subpoenaed everything on his computer and they found a bunch of porn,' related Mike with a smirk.
'Whoa!' I responded. 'It wasn't a subpoena; it was a public information request. I read that article, and I don't seem to recall seeing them saying that they found anything special on the guy's computer, much less porn.
Mike's eyes widened and his smirk got larger. 'Oh, they found porn all right.'
Let me give you a direct quote from the newspaper:
www.friendfinder.com, a personals Web site. Images found corresponding to this site include adultfriendfinder.com, passion.com, and lesbianpersonals …
'Sounds to me as if he downloaded porn. I've been on Adult Friendfinder and it's loaded with porn. It's a front for all sorts of prostitution. He downloaded porn on county time. He should be recalled.'
'Mike,' said I. 'There was nothing in that news article that said that he downloaded porn. When you do a Web search, you may briefly visit all sorts of Web pages. When you visit these pages, all of the images and cookies associated with the pages you visit are downloaded into your computer's 'browser cache.' If you visit friendfinder, you will find that there are links and images to Adult Friendfinder, and other less desirable sites. You don't have to visit these sites for your computer to store them in your browser cache.'
'You mean to say,' said my friend; 'That I have sleazy stuff on my computer?'
'I can almost guarantee it.' I replied. 'I proved this to my wife a while back. She has her own computer and uses it almost entirely for either church work, or curriculum development for Mercy Corps. I went through her browser cache and thoroughly embarrassed her with what I was able to turn up. Frankly, I am surprised that the links associated with 'friendfinder' were all that they could find.'
My friend was still not satisfied, but I suggested that he look into his own browser cache and see what is contained in it. In Microsoft Internet Explorer, the images are stored in a hidden folder in each users profile. The folder is C:Documents and Settings(username)Local SettingsTemporary Internet Files. This folder is 'hidden' so you will have to make it visible before you can see what is in it. With your Windows Explorer open, click on 'tools,' then 'Folder Options,' click on the 'View' tab, then 'Show Hidden Files and Folders.'
If you are using Firefox, just type: 'about:cache' into the address bar (don't use quotes).
You might be amazed at what you have on your own computer.
There are some third-party utilities that you can use and purchase to view and remove the images and cookies in your browser cache. Cache View, Internet Sweeper, and Window Washer are but a few that quickly come to mind. If you are interested; a Web search using the words 'browser cache' should be able to give you a selection of a number of usable utilities.
In the meantime, I have a friend and a wife to tease about their browser caches. You too, might take care in what your own computer picks up when you do a Web search, particularly if you are a public official.
Editor's note: Bill Eagle lives in St. Helens where he is retired and manages the www.sthelensupdate.com Web site.