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By tagging your browser with a Flash object containing a unique ID, United Virtualities can recognize an individual PC and restore the deleted cookie data. Flash allows "shared objects" to be saved on the PC, which some clever person deduced could be an alternate form of unique identification.
Pretty soon you'll have to reformat your hard drive every week or so just to be sure...
I could find no way to disable flash in Firefox.
Short of wiping the plugin, I believe you're right, there is no direct way. I wonder if the AdBlock or Flash click-to-play extensions would block this?
You can also adjust your global Flash security settings via this control panel [macromedia.com]. I'm guessing that if you set the storage space to None, that should stop things.
Scroll down to "What are storage settings?", open BOTH the panels and move BOTH settings to zero. This leaves the rest of Flash enabled. The panel showed I already had two taggings.
As an additional measure I downloaded a freeware TurnFlash by Nirsoft. Works with IE.
[edited by: tedster at 7:03 pm (utc) on April 1, 2005]
[edit reason] make link live [/edit]
Keeping PIE secret from users combined with the fact that they can't easily be deleted locally like cookies, could unfortunately start a new privacy rumour panic ruining Flash. Why this lack of transparency and information on what PIE can do? The cookie hysteria should have been a lesson.
In my previous post I just wanted to share some findings that interested me. Maybe it's good webmasters know what measures users may take. However, I don't think a deeper discussion belongs to the WebmasterWorld forum. I have tried to reason in this post like a web user might do.
Much of the original cookie paranoia has passed - a few years ago, I remember getting emails like, "I refuse to return to your site because you tried to place a cookie on my hard drive." I haven't heard that in years, probably because EVERY site places cookies today and many sites won't function properly without them.
Still, I'd guess there are lots of more justifiably paranoid SEOs who don't want Google et al to remember every search they make, or be able to relate various Adwords and Adsense accounts to each other as well as searching behavior.
Third party ad-tracking companies might give some privacy advocates concerns as well, since they have the ability to generate a more complete map of surfing behavior, and potentially could match detailed account information to visiting unrelated sites. I like it when Amazon offers me new items related to my past purchases or even searches I've done there, but what if a user arrived at Amazon and was presented an array of gay p*rn material based on third party cookie analysis?
If word of this spreads (and novices actually understand why its bad) hopefully personal firewalls (and IE7) will have an easy way to defeat Flash. Until then, maybe this will make Firefox useage reach the 20%-25% mark before the end of the year.
So any attempt to "restore" those intentionally deleted cookies seems likely to be doomed in the court of popular opinion, unless those marketers using the practice can build some positive spin pretty darned fast.
You have a better chance of getting in a car accident then someone hacking into your computer with text...lol funniest thing I ever heard.
I don't think it's hacking that most people here are worried about on this Flash object issue - the concern is mostly about tracking. Personal tracking really bothers some folks, and they don't necessarily need to be up to something shady either.
In a world where appearances mean a lot, accumulated tracking data may seem imply certain things that aren't really true. To a degree I sympathize with this viewpoint. Remember that line from the original post -- "can recognize an individual PC."
No one wants to be a dolphin in the tuna net.
Such properties may be important to certain kinds of users, but I never understood why a lot of _webmasters_ on WebmasterWorld promote Firefox so strongly.
I don't know if it's impacted my business negatively, but I can say that I've never been annoyed browsing my own sites...
Why is it so hard to get that customer is king works on the net too? If your visitors choose, don't pretend you know better, just accept it and work with it!
If a street merchant grabs your arm and starts threatening you, swearing at you and scratching your car with a key because you didn't buy, do you think you cheated THEM out of their rightful money, or they cheated you?
I work a lot with tracking on a pretty high level myself, and i do recommend personalization as well whereever it adds real benefit to the user experience. So, it's not like i'm even remotely against this stuff, as such.
I do realize, though, that some users don't think like me - i try to educate them and say that in general cookies do no harm, plus they're easy to remove, or even block if you feel like it. So, i don't see a big problem with normal cookies at all.
I see a problem with Flash cookies because they are stored in non-standard locations and it seems that the user cannot prevent them, nor remove them with standard tools (ie. those that are built into the browser). This is the problem i see with them; it's not a problem related to what can be done with them - it's a problem for the user that wishes to get rid of them.
People should always be able to opt out of any tracking schemes in an easy and straight forward way, especially in the cases where they do not actively opt in.
That said, working with tracking i just got myself a new tool, and of course i'm glad about that. I'm just not glad on behalf of the users that i track, which include myself. They should have an easy way to opt out. So, i will think twice and investigate the options carefully before using this new tool - if i do find that it is just as harmless and easy to handle as normal cookies then i will have no problems, i'm just not there yet.
In msg 16 FF usage is expected to reach the 20–25% mark this year, and maybe much more later. Many will have that obfuscating PrefBar, which will make claus' and other webmasters' vital tracking and marketing research efforts more difficult. Here is the contradiction I'm wondering about.
I invite claus to start that new thread - why it is in the webmasters' interest to promote FF - as you seem to have the knowledge. I'm just confused over what appears to be a conflict of interests in this tracking issue. Is it right to fake UA, etc?
Regarding the main topic I'm satisfied to hear that en expert like claus confirms my own concerns (now as a web user) regarding Flash PIE tags, in my msg 10 here. Let's hope Macromedia can successfully convince the web users that tagging is harmless.
Bring on the more easy ways then - i'm always interested in learning new stuff ;)
>> track a user's computer
Cookies (and afaik SO) work at the login and browser level, not at the computer level. I have no use for tracking machines as i'm more interested in user behaviour.
"The user is not proficient enough in technology to know if the cookie is good or bad, or how it works,"
For its part, Macromedia has posted on its [macromedia.com...] instructions for disabling shared objects uploaded to browsers.
Cookie and SO problems solved...now while your sitting back and relaxing, there's only time till you "Realize" through media sadly (which is about 5 years behind technology) that this is the least of your worries lol.