I flew to England last year, and my arms were tired! Tired of clicking cookie pop-ups on every website I visited, ie.
“You’re bound to spend an inordinate amount of time engaging in this thing, researching and finding the setting you want to be readily available to you,” said Jennifer King, privacy and data policy officer at the Stanford University Institute for Humans. Centered Artificial Intelligence, known as Recode. “They are boring.”
If you’re tired of it being such a chore to maintain your privacy, I have good news for you: there are ways to reject cookies and prevent these pop-ups from appearing. A new one, called Never-Consent, was announced today. It comes to us from Ghostery, which specializes in privacy-centric web tools. If it does what Ghostery promises, it will make preserving your privacy as easy and quick as clicking “accept” on those pop-ups now. The cost will be the “personalized” experience that marketers say their cookies provide.
Although some cookies are necessary for a website to work and actually improve your experience, many of them are simply there to track you around the internet and collect data about you, usually from companies in which you had no no idea. this website in the first place. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was supposed to tell users they were being tracked and give them a way to opt out of that tracking.
GDPR is well-intentioned in theory. But in practice, many companies have perverted the rules to give us those misleadingly worded banners that no one understands and everyone hates. If you’re looking for examples of dark patterns or designs intended to trick 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 the button that says ‘Yes, I accept all forms of tracking’ and they make it really hard to say no,” said Harry Brignull, who coined the term “dark patterns” and follows. on its website. “For example, they might have a maze of menus and dozens of things to click on different pages. None of this really needs to exist – its sole purpose is to trick or frustrate you into giving up and just clicking the big, shiny accept button.
You may have noticed that many US-based websites have them as well. You may also have noticed that many of them have added banners over the past few years. That’s likely because of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which went into effect in early 2020. The CCPA says websites must at least tell users they’re being tracked. Unlike the GDPR, it does not require sites to offer users the ability to reject cookies unless users are under 16. Rather than trying to figure out the relevant details – which visitors are teenagers and which are adults, which users are based in Europe and which aren’t, and which users are in California and which aren’t – many sites simply opted for an opt-in consent banner to cover their bases. And then most of them make rejecting cookies the path of most resistance.
This is where Never-Consent comes in. It both blocks pop-ups and automatically rejects cookies. Never-Consent will be added to Ghostery’s browser extension in the coming weeks. All you have to do is install the extension and it will do the work for you, the company says.
Krzysztof Modras, director of engineering and product at Ghostery, said the company basically looked at about 100 existing cookie consent frameworks and found a way to automatically reject and block them. The Interactive Advertising Bureau Europe framework, for example, is found on around 80% of European websites, but it was also recently found to violate GDPR. (Oops!) This means that some sites may go unnoticed if they don’t use a third-party cookie consent mechanism known to Ghostery. But users can report these sites to Ghostery, and these 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, then be careful who you trust – you can always use a browser that blocks tracking cookies by default. At this point, almost all of them do, except Chrome, which is by far the most popular and also created by a company with a vested interest in following you around the internet, which is surely a coincidence.
There’s also Global Privacy Control, which automatically tells websites not to sell or share a user’s data. But GPC is not 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 on ways to get rid of cookie pop-ups and also replace them with a browser-based tool. Ghostery extension blocked third-party cookies before Never-Consent. But now you will also be able to actively tell these websites that you do not want to be tracked 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 non-consent to publishers,” said Jean-Paul Schmetz, CEO of Ghostery.
How much does it really matter to websites that deploy pop-ups designed to confuse and annoy you into submitting? I’m not so sure. Especially if, like me, you live somewhere that doesn’t have privacy laws requiring companies to respect your preferences. But at the very least, it will give you the feeling of standing up for yourself.
Don’t think your days of annoying pop-ups or tracking are over forever. Companies are increasingly using them to get you to sign up for newsletters and marketing emails. It’s their way of continuing to collect data about you now that the cookies are about to go away. As we’ve seen with the proliferation of cookie pop-ups, companies are always looking for – and likely will find – a new way to track you as their current method is closed.
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