Trackers Are Out Of Control

Modern web analytics and tracking are completely out of control. And it’s not even a privacy issue for me at this point – it’s more about usability. Trackers are practically recreating the “dial-up Internet” experience. (Ask your parents, kids.) It’s 2015 – but a lot of websites load like it’s 1999.

And it seems like the problem turns up just about everywhere these days.

Let’s take a look at a well known brick and mortar retailer’s website using Ghostery for visualization. Here’s the US localization of Ikea’s website, with third-party cookies enabled.

Ikea's US localization with third-party cookies allowed.

Ikea’s US localization with third-party cookies allowed. (Firefox 40 for Windows.)

According the Ghostery, 9 different tracker resources are loading. (I use Ghostery for visualization, not for blocking.) Okay, fair enough.

Now here’s the Finnish localization of Ikea’s website, with third-party cookies not allowed.

Ikea's Finnish localization with third-party cookies disabled.

Ikea’s Finnish localization with third-party cookies disabled.

According to Ghostery, 11 different trackers are loading. But remember… this is with no third-party cookies. So what happens when third-party cookies are enabled?

38 more trackers come join the party!

Ikea's Finnish localization with third-party cookies allowed.

Ikea’s Finnish localization with third-party cookies allowed.

That’s 49 trackers in total. (Feels just a bit excessive, no?)

I really don’t get this, I just want to do some window-shopping before I visit the physical store.

But anyway…

If an opening set of trackers are allowed to load successfully and to drop their cookies, they’ll often go fetch more resources, and that slows down your browsing as a result.

I typically disallow all third-party cookies in my efforts to block trackers. This very rarely creates any conflicts for me. However, one of my colleagues has tested this setting and discovered that he cannot sign-in to sites such as Sony’s PlayStation Network. (But for that I’d recommend a using a second browser.) So factor that in mind.

In your primary browser, I recommend setting “accept third-party cookies” to “never”.

Here’s Firefox 40 for Windows.

about:preferences#privacy

Firefox > Options > Privacy

Here’s the settings in Chrome 44 for Windows.

chrome://settings/content

Chrome > Settings > Show advanced settings > Content settings

And here are the settings for iOS 9.

iOS 9 Settings, Safari, Privacy & Security

iOS 9 > Settings > Safari > Privacy & Security

I use “Allow from Current Website Only” in iOS.

iOS 9 Settings, Safari, Privacy & Security, Block Cookies

iOS 9 > Settings > Safari > Privacy & Security > Block Cookies

And then of course, you can also block tracking resources on the network side via a VPN with tracking filters.

Ikea's Finnish localization with third-party cookies allowed, using Freedome.

Ikea’s Finnish localization with third-party cookies allowed, using Freedome.

As you can see above, our Freedome VPN reduces the number of trackers that attempt to load to a mere two. Much better.

Whatever approach you opt for, killing trackers as early as possible will yield a better browsing experience.

Happy hunting.

@5ean5ullivan



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