Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Om Nom Nom Nom

Just as with scissors1, there are good HTML cookies and bad HTML cookies. Not only does Cookie Monster like eating the good cookies ("Me want cookie"), we should all look for these good HTML cookies and install them in our browsers if we don't want to have our browsing habits aggregated and used to target advertising at us.

There's quite an array of advertising networks used to aggregate your browsing habits, so if you want to opt out of their tracking cookies, there's quite a number of sites that you'll need to go to in order to achieve this.  To save you setting aside a day each time you install a new browser or reinstall a computer, I've made a bit of a list below of the main sites you can go to in order to stop a number of these advertising sites from getting all up in your face.

Now, please note that the Internet advertisers are used to track your browsing habits and target advertising at you.  This in itself isn't a bad thing when this is used to offset the cost of hosting a number of services on the Internet, but we all have the right to choose whether we want to receive targeted advertising or not, so if you're happy with the status quo, there's no need to opt out of anything.

There are a number of different options available depending on the browser you use.  The way to block *all* third party cookies is shown below for each of the major browsers.

Google Chrome
  1. From Chrome, click on the "Customize and Control Google Chrome" icon, and in the drop-down menu, select "Options"
  2. Select the "Under the Hood" tab
  3. Under "Privacy" click on "Content settings..."
  4. Select the "Cookies" tab
  5. Select "Block all third-party cookies without exception"

Mozilla Firefox
  1. From Firefox, click on the "Tools" menu, and then select "Options"
  2. Click on the "Privacy" icon
  3. Under the "History" section, click on "Firefox will:" and choose "Use custom settings for history"
  4. Uncheck the "Accept third party cookies" option

Internet Explorer
  1. From Internet Explorer, click on the "Tools" menu, and then select "Internet Options"
  2. Select the "Privacy" tab
  3. Under the "Settings" section, click on "Advanced"
  4. Check the "Override automatic cookie handling" box
  5. In the Third-party cookies section, select "Block"

  1. From Opera, click the red "O" up the top left of the browser, and then select "Settings" and "Preferences"
  2. In the Preferences Dialog Box, select the "Advanced" tab
  3. Select the "Cookies" option
  4. Make sure the "Accept cookies only from the site I visit" option is selected

  1. From Safari, select "Safari" in the menu bar, and then select "Preferences"
  2. In the Preferences Dialog Box, select the "Security" tab
  3. Make sure the "Accept cookies:" setting is set to "Only from sites you navigate to".  You can also set this option to "Never", but this will prevent many web sites that rely on cookies from working

Below are the instructions on how to opt out of individual advertising sites or networks.  PLEASE note that each different browser you use (or install) needs to be configured for Opt-Out individually - opting out of an advertising cookie in IE won't mean it is opted out for Chrome nor Firefox just as opting out in Firefox won't make it opt-out in IE nor Safari.

The most effective way to take out the majority of Internet advertisers is to go to the Network Advertising Initiative website, choose Select all and then Submit.  This will opt you out of 47 different sites (at the time this blog post was written).

Next, go to the World Privacy Forum and opt out of those sites not included in the NAI opt out - 2o7.net (and Omniture), Bluestream (IonAd), Doubleclick, Exponential, Hitbox, NextAction (see below), Nextag, Nielsen/NetRatings and Zedo.

Additional Opt Out sites include MyAdChoice (NextAction and others), AdTech, AdShuffle, Lijit, Tealium and Vindico Group.

The following Internet advertising sites do not (as far as I can tell) allow for easy Opt-Out.  That says a lot to me about their business ethics:  IAC Advertising (Evite, Match.com, Pronto, Gifts.com, Ask.com), TruEffect (AdLegend - the Opt Out page 404s).

There's also an option from a company called Abine that allows you to install an Add-On in your browser (Firefox and Internet Explorer) that blocks advertising cookies.  This is the TACO (Targeted Advertising Cookie Opt-out app that's been around for some time now.)

For a bit more of a read on how we're all being tracked on the Internet these days, have a read of Seth Schoen's technical analysis of tracking on the Electronic Frontier Foundation's website.  Don't forget to also read Part 2.

Don't forget, for Australian readers, there's also the Do Not Call Register where you can register your Australian fixed line and mobile numbers, provided the numbers are used primarily for private or domestic purposes.

1. If you've ever heard your mother scream out "Don't use the good scissors" and wondered if you could use the evil scissors, then you know where I'm coming from!  :)


The Outspoken Wookie


Alan said...

Don't forget to also block Flash cookies... they are just bad and are really sneaky...

Hilton Travis said...

G'day Alan,

Yes - Seth Schoen's EFF article mentions them and I was going to write another entry on Flash Cookies - these are definitely something that many people don't know about.