Ad blockers don’t block cookie pop-ups, but this browser extension will

I flew to England last year and boy were my arms tired! Tired of clicking on the cookie pop-ups on every website I have visited, that is.

You surely know what I’m talking about: those banners or pop-ups that often pop up, unsolicited, when you go to a website you’ve never been to before. They should tell you that a website is tracking you using tiny snippets of code called cookies and give you a way to refuse those cookies, as required by law in some places (England, for example). What pop-ups usually do is tell you that the page you are visiting uses cookies to give you a better experience, but you can, and so at this point you have probably stopped reading the small print and simply pressed the big button. luminous that says “I ACCEPT” because you don’t have time for that. You have now done exactly what the website wants you to do: agreed to be tracked.

“You are forced to spend excess time having to engage with this thing, to search and find the setting you may wish to be readily available to you,” Jennifer King, Privacy and Data Policy Member at Stanford University Institute for Human – Artificial intelligence centered, he told Recode. “They are boring.”

If you’re sick of preserving your privacy being such a chore, I have some good news for you: there are ways to decline cookies and block those pop-ups. A new one was announced today, called Never-Consent. It comes to us from Ghostery, who specializes in privacy-focused web tools. If it does as Ghostery promises, preserving your privacy will be as quick and easy as clicking “accept” on those pop-ups now. The cost will be the “personalized” experience that marketers claim their cookies provide.

While some cookies are necessary for a website to function and, in fact, improve your experience, many of them are simply there to track you on the internet and collect data about you, usually from companies you had no idea you were at. embedded that website in the first place. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was supposed to inform users that they were being tracked and provide them with a way to disable that tracking.

The GDPR is theoretically well intentioned. But in practice, many companies have perverted the rules to give us these banners with the deceptive formula that nobody understands and that everyone hates. If you are looking for examples of obscure patterns or designs intended to manipulate people into doing or choosing certain things, you can usually find them in the nearest cookie consent pop-up.

“They make it really easy to click on the button that says ‘Yes, I accept all forms of tracking’ and they make it extremely difficult to say no,” said Harry Brignull, who coined the term ‘dark patterns’ and tracks them on his site. web. “For example, maybe they will have a maze of menus and dozens of things to click on on different pages. None of these things really need to exist – its only purpose is to fool you or frustrate you by making you give up and just clicking the big glossy accept button. “

You may have noticed that many US-based websites have them too. You may have also noticed that a lot of them have been adding banners over the past few years. This is likely due to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which went into effect in early 2020. The CCPA says websites must at least notify users that they are being monitored. Unlike the GDPR, it does not require sites to offer users the ability to refuse cookies unless users are under the age of 16. Rather than trying to figure out the relevant details – which visitors are teenagers and which adults, which users are based in Europe and which are not, and which users are in California and which are not – many sites have just chosen an opt-in consent banner. to cover their bases. And then most of them make the refusal of cookies the path of greatest resistance.

This is where Never-Consent comes in. Block pop-ups and automatically reject cookies. Never-Consent will be added to the Ghostery browser extension in the coming weeks. All you need to do is install the extension and it will do the job for you, the company says.

Krzysztof Modras, Ghostery’s director of engineering and products, said the company basically looked at around 100 existing cookie consent frameworks and found a way to automatically reject and block them. The Interactive Advertising Bureau Europe framework, for example, is present on around 80% of European websites, but recently it has also been found to violate the GDPR. (Oops!) This means there may be some sites that escape if they don’t use a third party cookie consent mechanism known to Ghostery. But users can submit those sites to Ghostery and those frameworks will be added.

There are a few other extensions you can try that do something similar to Never-Consent. If you don’t want to worry about finding and installing browser extensions – and Brignull points out that browser extensions and the companies that make them can also track you, so be careful who you trust – you can always use a browser that blocks cookie tracking to default. At this point, almost everyone does it except Chrome, which is by far the most popular and even made by a company with a vested interest in tracking you on the internet, which is definitely a coincidence.

There is also the Global Privacy Control, which automatically tells websites not to sell or share a user’s data. But GPC isn’t available on all browsers (Chrome and Safari, in particular), and websites are only required to comply with it for California users, according to the CCPA. The UK is working to eliminate cookie pop-ups and also replace them with a browser-based tool. Ghostery’s extension blocked third party cookies before Never-Consent. But now you will also be able to actively tell those websites that you do not wish to be monitored in addition to passively blocking their cookies.

“I think the big picture is that it’s important to have a tool that not only blocks these things, but actively returns consent to publishers,” said Jean-Paul Schmetz, CEO of Ghostery.

How much does it really matter to websites that distribute pop-ups designed to confuse and annoy you into submission? I’m not so sure. Especially if, like me, you live in a place that doesn’t have privacy laws that require companies to respect your preferences. But at least, it will give you a sense of defense for yourself.

Don’t think your days of annoying pop-ups or being monitored are over forever. Businesses are using them more and more to encourage you to sign up for marketing newsletters and emails. This is their way of still collecting data about you now that the cookies are about to leave. As we’ve seen since the proliferation of cookie pop-ups, businesses are always looking for – and likely will find – a new way to track you when their current way is interrupted.

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