Rob Kraft's Software Development Blog

Software Development Insights

Don’t allow Flash to be used as a cookie to track your activity

Posted by robkraft on January 11, 2011

I am less and less inclined to allow 3rd party web sites track my Internet activities for use in targeted ads or other reasons.  While dirty techniques like the evercookie (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evercookie) make it very difficult to prevent tracking cookies (which is why I considered it dirty – it is intentionally trying to thwart my will to prevent cookies); a few steps can be taken against those who don’t resort to the evercookie to track your activities.

1) Don’t allow 3rd party vendors to use Flash to track your activities.  If you find the folder containing your “flash” cookies, which are stored separately from your browser cookies and thus not cleared when you delete files in your browser, you may be surprised to see the large number of sites already using Flash cookies to track you.  You can disable the storage by going to the global storage settings at this URL  http://www.macromedia.com/support/documentation/en/flashplayer/help/settings_manager.html and unchecking “Allow third-party…”.

2) Another thing I suggest is that you don’t automatically accept browser cookies.  You may find this a little annoying the first few weeks as you are prompted for each cookie.  You will discover that some sites you visit have as many as ten different cookie providers on the site all tracking different (or the same) aspects of your activities.  In Internet Explorer, go to Tools, Internet Options, Privacy tab, click on the Advanced button, and choose to override automatic cookie handling; prompt for both 3rd party and first party cookies, and automatically allow session cookies.  When you go to a site such as www.google.com and you see requests for cookies to other sites like advertising.com, check the never ask again checkbox and select NO.

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