back to article Watch out, Yahoo! EFF looses BADGER on sites that ignore Do Not Track

In the wake of Yahoo!'s decision to stop honoring browsers' Do Not Track signals, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has released a new blacklisting tool that will automatically block tracking cookies from sites that refuse to support DNT. Dubbed Privacy Badger, the tool is available as a browser plugin for Chrome and Firefox …

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GOOD.

First thing Monday I'm going to make a donation to the EFF. This is good stuff.

Also, +1 to El Reg for actually properly using "looses" as opppose to all these people who can't spell 'lose'.

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Headmaster

@ h4rm0ny Re: GOOD.

"opppose"?

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Joke

Re: GOOD.

It's a badger not a PPPenguin.

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Re: @ h4rm0ny GOOD.

That's Muphry's Law: if you correct someone else's spelling or comment on it in any way, you will make a typo yourself.

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Paris Hilton

Re: @ h4rm0ny GOOD.

Murphy is a vengeful god.

Clearly having a Paris Hilton moment.

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Re: @ h4rm0ny GOOD.

Never before wide use of the internet had I ever heard of 'Murphy's Law'. I guess it must be an Americanism, because in Britain the same phenomenon has always been called Sod's law.

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Headmaster

Re: @ h4rm0ny GOOD.

According to most reputable sources I can find, "sod's law" is actually a newer coinage than "Murphy's law". Murphy's law is definitely referenced by name from the early 1950s, but "sod's law" doesn't appear in print until 1970.

So "always been called"... may not be as accurate as you think.

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Boffin

Ah yes I remember the salad days of yore.

Lady Chatterly made it into print in the 1960's I believe.

It was good to be young then. Not that I ever read it of course. I am looking forward to a transaltion of Fanny Hill into the vernacular (to be venal.) Especially because I like my porn to end happily ever after. Not just so I can understand it, I assure you.

So sod's law get's trumped by Murphy does it?

Well that just goes to show how sod's law works doesn't it.

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Re: @ h4rm0ny GOOD.

>>"it must be an Americanism, because in Britain the same phenomenon has always been called Sod's law."

I have heard Murphy's Law as a child in the UK. But I think it's mainly because back then "sod" was a vaguely bad word and I got the child-friendly version of it. Probably why you get Murphy's Law in the USA - their aversion to "rude" words.

I wanted to write "Sod's Law" actually, but someone had already used "Murphy" and "Sod the Powerful God" just was either too rhyming or too open to verb / noun confusion.

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Mushroom

If they really want to 'badger them'...

Create a plugin that sends thousands of unnecessary get-requests to their servers

the moment a tracking cookie is detected while the DNT flag is set...

That way, everyone who refuses to honor DNT will basically DDOS themselves...

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Re: If they really want to 'badger them'...

I like...

You could also have it email the ASA and report every website that does this. EVERY TIME.

http://www.asa.org.uk/Contact-us.aspx

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Re: If they really want to 'badger them'...

Except that might be grounds for a suit. Perhaps a quick beep to the EFF and for every, say, 100 times they get a red flag, the EFF can send an e-mail to the admins of that website listing the violations. Of course, they'd also need to find a way to make sure it's not summarily filtered, but enough of them should start getting their attention. And the sites can't accuse the EFF of spam since each message is different and all the e-mails will be valid claims of misconduct.

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Re: If they really want to 'badger them'...

Then that becomes the first shot in a war of ddosing and getting banned. Suddenly you won't be able to access anything.

It's the Golden Rule: he who has the golden website makes all the rules.

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Armor up

I like the way you think, malle-herbert. Upvoted.

I use FF because it allows me to armor up and not fall victim to the whims of websites.

Adblock, Flash block, script block, privdog, clear history on close, Ghostery. Plus my hardware and software firewalls. Plus my AVs, both active and passive. It takes ALL of those running at once to safely surf these days. And even then things get through. (very very little in my case)

So no matter what the website/trackers decides, they can kiss my shiny metal ass. Because thanks to them, they have made surfing the web akin to slogging through the sewers in a knife fight.

Install the above and you will be shocked at the amount of malware it blocks for Yahoo alone.

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Re: Armor up

"Install the above and you will be shocked at the amount of malware it blocks for Yahoo alone."

Actually, you won't. I've had those running for so long, I really don't know what I'm missing from Yahoo at all. Which is even better. :-)

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Re: Armor up

Jeez you must have so much fun browsing... wouldn't it be easier just not to use the internet, or even a computer?

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Re: Armor up

Especially since many sites, including some of the BIG ones or ones with exclusive content, are now employing ad-blocker-blockers of a very broad sort. Basically they won't let you see anything unless you open yourself up to the cookies.

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FAIL

Re: Armor up

Running multiple AVs at the same time...

FFS people, this is supposed to be a website with a technically inclined readership...

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Re: Armor up

"Running multiple AVs at the same time...

FFS people, this is supposed to be a website with a technically inclined readership..."

Spybot plays nice with every AV I've ever used, but it is only used in passive/immunized mode. My firewalls are firewalls only. I've chosen Avast as my main "live/active" AV.

Yes, thank you. I've resolved many a user's performance problem because they were running 2 AVs. If I hadn't known this for the last 10 years, your advice would have been timely.

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Re: Armor up

"Jeez you must have so much fun browsing... wouldn't it be easier just not to use the internet, or even a computer?"

Yes! Thank you! The recovered speed and complete lack of annoying as shit adverts/trackers/AV vectors, make surfing enjoyable again.

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Linux

Re: Armor up

If you want to get rid of some of the stuff you're using to get rid of tracking cookies, malware and so on, switch to Linux and get rid of all of your AV software. And, if it matters, you can stop paying for your OS, your applications and your upgrades because Linux is free. Or, you can keep on throwing money into Microsoft's money pit if you prefer.

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Re: Armor up

Especially since many sites ... are now employing ad-blocker-blockers of a very broad sort.

My universal response to being told to turn off my adblocker or allow third-party tracking is simply to add that site to my blacklist and move on to the next site. I've lived perfectly well so far without whatever the site is offering and I'll live perfectly well without it for many years yet.

Same thing goes for sites that display nothing but a "You must enable Javascript to view this site" banner. If you don't give me any reason why I should allow Javascript for your site, you don't give me any reason to be a potential customer (or product!) A good site should fall back gracefully to at least let people see what you're offering so they can decide whether they want to enable Javascript or not. By all means have a banner advising me that some features need Javascript, but at least give me something to be able to base that decision on.

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Boffin

Re: Armor up

"fun browsing... wouldn't it be easier just not to use the internet, or even a computer?"

For the best sites, I write my own programs. Firefox is just to find the ones worth the effort.

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Re: Armor up

Thanks for the info.

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Facepalm

Your heart bleeds for NSA.

No Text.

Oh well if I must:

They should change the name of BT to GCHQ so Microsoft/Yahoo users might realise why they own all the landlines.

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Re: Armor up

@Joe Zeff:

Did you just touch down from 2002?

Free software and lack of malware (even if only an illusion) does not have anything to do with website activity tracking.

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Re: Armor up

That may well be possible if you have an alternative, but I note you left out the key word exclusive. In this case, it's down to a take it or leave it. If you turn them down, you have to go without the offer since you can't get it anywhere else.

And it gets dicier when you're not talking about something cosmetic but important stuff like exclusive drivers, security patches, and so on. What if the only way to keep your system safe is to submit to the cookie minefield? (And yes, I've personally experienced such a dilemma for an old driver)

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Re: Armor up

> Free software and lack of malware (even if only an illusion) does not have anything to do with website activity tracking.

Perhaps not directly, but it removes the commercial incentive to allow it, which is a good start.

Using a browser's porn mode helps. Most sites work if you allow JS for the site, but block off-domain content, so noscript is still useful. Also, something like "better privacy" for ditching flash cookies.

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DNT is great in theory, except it was doomed the minute Microsoft decided to make it on by default. A cynic mind might even suggest it was done deliberately to compromise the idea. Don't forget - this is not the first time something major has chosen to explicitly ignore DNT being set, on the basis that you couldn't actually rely on the user having made the choice.

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"on the basis that you couldn't actually rely on the user having made the choice."

Your logic is backwards. Consumers should have to opt-in to being tracked.

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Re: Well that's all well and good, but...

Don't kid yourself, the ad companies have always wanted DNT to default off and be hard to change so they can claim everyone is opting in. And that includes Google.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Well that's all well and good, but...

That may well be, but a PROPER government would put people before business and demand that businesses NOT track a person unless EXPRESSLY and EXPLICITLY permitted. Much like that recording scandal in California (it's an all-party explicit consent state). And if they don't like the way that works, well they can just find another line of work. (Rude Salute)

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> Your logic is backwards. Consumers should have to opt-in to being tracked.

Yes they should, but that's ireelevant: prior to DNT there was not any opt-in *or* opt-out. DNT gave you at least the opt-out. MS then deliberately broke it by turning it on by default thereby almost forcing sites to ignore it, which not long after brings us to where we are now. Exactly as I predicted.

Amazing how many people actually thought MS were doing us all a favour. So bloody naive.

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@BlueGreen

Well here's how I see your argument: all these ad companies were basically fucking us up the ass whenever they wanted, but they agreed to only do it if we'd had a good night's sleep first. Then Microsoft came along and taped our assholes up, so the ad companies pulled the tape off and fucked us. You think that was what Microsoft wanted and you're angry at them because you thought it was damned civil of the ad companies to say they'd let us have a few z's first. Am I on the right track here?

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Re: @BlueGreen @Terri Terrapin

While I like your expression, MS didn't 'tape our assholes up', if anything they weakened the tape. They sabotaged DNT. DNT was weak (as it was not backed by law) and if it became common to opt out it would have been murdered later. Instead, MS ensured it was murdered sooner.

> you thought it was damned civil of the ad companies

don't assume too much just because I didn't spell it out. TBH if I could release a virus that castrated every ad company employee in the world forever I'd do it. They are a disease.

Now, given that they are a disease I use a comprehensive blocklist so I kill >99% of ads anyway. Do you? Do you make any effort to systemically deal with ads? And do you see a longer term issue here that has to be solved if ads are to be abolished forever (in other words, can you see the disease is perhaps self-inflicted)?

(am pissed, please excuse any laxity or errors)

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"DNT is great in theory, except it was doomed the minute Microsoft decided to make it on by default."

This is either hopelessly naive or hopelessly MS-bashing, more likely both. DNT was doomed the moment it was invented, even before the proposals were first published. The very first time I heard about the idea, I concluded that it was fatuously naive optimism on a scale that is rarely seen anywhere, and nothing in any of the subsequent discussions has inclined me to change that opinion.

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What I particularly "enjoyed" was how these charitable advertising organizations developed a system to "opt out" of their industry's tracking.... but only by setting cookies in your browser, requiring cookies to be enabled, of course.... :D

Right now technology is running a couple of decades ahead of brain-dead politicians, who are either clueless about how they are allowing technology to invade traditionally-sacred personal/political liberties, or in such service to the monied interests that the result is the same.

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Re: @BlueGreen @Terri Terrapin

Do you make any effort to systemically deal with ads?

Whether you do or now, the ad companies make every effort to systematically deal with people who systematically deal with ads. They employ broad ad-blocker-blockers and start having host sites and other legitimate domains host the ads, meaning if you block the ads you block the content, too. And with more and more exclusive (and perhaps even important) content being hidden behind these cookie minefields, it increasingly reaches the point of "Do You Dare?"

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Didn't MS do something similar with the high-priority flag in IP? They turned it on permanently for Windows, thus destroying its purpose and spoiling it for everyone else?

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Anonymous Coward

Hmm, well, glass houses & stuff...

My browser has DNT set but Ghostery still detects no less than 11 objects of dubious parentage on the El Reg web page reporting this story (and there's no guarantee that's all of them).

Time to eat your own badger food El Reg?

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It's a bit rich to publish this article with ELEVEN trackers embedded in the El-Reg page!

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WTF?

Too difficult to implement DNT

I guess its the same kind of people that need supervision when using a butter knife, lest they gouge out their own eyes.

If the browser with DNT connects to a site with ads, only request enough data to display the ad (Screen resolution, browser version, etc) and only record that someone saw that ad. How is this so difficult?

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Re: Too difficult to implement DNT

I guess if you are on yahoo's payroll for a 6 figure salary, "do not track" is too complicated a phrase to understand.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Too difficult to implement DNT

Just displaying the ad isn't enough anymore. Those that relied simply on that data have since disappeared. The ad companies that remain won't really pay you unless that ad brings something along with it, like some kind of identification. And no, they will accept no less since it's the only way they can stay in business. And if the web providers can't get ad revenues, everything will start falling behind paywalls.

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Re: Too difficult to implement DNT

It's likely that the only devs left at Yahoo after all of the jackassery that has gone on there over the last few years are the slow children (no offense intended to slow children)/

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Headmaster

everything will start falling behind paywalls.

Everything you don't want to read sea or hear on the internet will start falling behind paywalls.

There, FTFY.

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Re: everything will start falling behind paywalls.

Everything you DO want to read sea or hear on the internet will start falling behind paywalls.

There. FTFTFY. It was right the first time, as I can speak from experience. More and more important and exclusive content is starting to get locked down.

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The deal with cookies

I never understood the deal with cookies. Why do browsers accept them by default? Normally, there would be an "allow cookies from this site" button in the bottom right (and that only for the purpose of allowing the site to remember log-ins).

I blame netscape, which presented an ugly popup window (that interrupted your browsing), everytime a site wanted to set a cookie, so most users just set their browser to "allow all", so this became the "standard behaviour".

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Alternatively...

...install Cookie Monster and deny all cookies by default, just using CM to enable them on sites where it suits ME to allow cookies to be set. Which means there are not third-party cookies for Badger to detect even when the bastards try to set them.

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3rd party cookies

There is zero reason to allow 3rd party cookies. I have them blocked ever since I could.

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