Home > Computers and Internet > Stopping online tracking in its tracks

Stopping online tracking in its tracks

In addition to the IP Address blocking, and IE 9 Tracking Protection, that I do to stop annoying online ads I’ve also recently discovered another way to save my computers resources. Something that the different tracking companies do to track us is load a little bit of Flash on a webpage to execute some tracking code. Even if I only see the webpage as having just some static text, Adobe Flash will get loaded and the browser will run the code. Adobe Flash is an add-on and Internet Explorer allows you to configure add-ons, such that they can be loaded only on pages that you want them to be loaded on. So to put a thorn in the online trackers side, stop Adobe Flash from being loaded on every website.

In Internet Explorer go to Manage add-ons. Find the “Shockwave Flash Object” and click “More Information”. In the window that pops up press “Remove all sites”. If this is the first time you do this you’ll see an ‘*’ in the box showing the list of approved sites. The asterisk is a character commonly used to mean everything.

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Now that you’ve removed all sites, the list should be empty. When you go to a website which uses Flash you’ll see a information bar in the bottom of the window requesting to run Adobe Flash. If you went to the website to see a Flash video, press Allow. If you’re not watching a video, either dismiss the bar by press the ‘x’ on the right hand side, or just ignore it. Nothing is forcing you to make a decision about running Flash. If you do this, you’ll notice the bar on practically every website and will learn to ignore it.

The only downside to this process is that if you allow Flash to watch a video on a website that you normally don’t watch videos on, and want to remove that website from the approved list, you have to remove all of the sites from the list. The add-on manager doesn’t have the functionality to remove just one website. It’s kind of pain, but it’s no big deal because it’s really easy to add sites back to the list. On my different accounts I normally have only four or five approved sites on the list anyway.

I love having one more way to prevent my computer from running code that I don’t feel is necessary to run. True, if I allow a site to run Flash because I want to watch videos, this won’t prevent that site from running the Flash tracking code, but there are so few of those sites, that this is one more way to be a pain to online trackers. Now if only P3P was strictly enforced.

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