Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Video vs. Privacy

A few times customers have asked why they can't watch videos on some web sites. Mostly they suspect Firefox to be the reason because they can see the video clip in Internet Explorer or Google Chrome just fine.

It is not Firefox that blocks the videos, it is something that I install in Firefox that causes this effect. Please bear with me.

Regularly I advise my customers to use Firefox to "go to the Internet", that is for every day web browsing. And I set Firefox up in a way that
  1. Advertisements from commercial advertisement servers are blocked.
  2. Google and Yahoo search results warn from known potentially dangerous web sites.
  3. Google's pervasive tracking is minimized
  4. Facebook's pervasive tracking is minimized
  5. Local weather conditions are displayed without installing PUP software.
    (PUP stands for Potentially Unwanted Programs; see Wikipedia about mal-ware.)
Much of Google's and Facebook's tracking is done by small programs embedded in many, many web sites. These small programs send information about every step you do on the web to Google, Facebook and third parties, to companies that secretly want to collect this information about you. It is like Big Brother is watching all the time!

Numbers  3 and 4 above are blocking this "secret" transfer of information about what you do on the Internet. Quite a few web sites are programmed in a way that the video is only shown when this communication to the third parties has happened!

All the aforementioned leaves us to decide:
Is this video more important to me than my privacy? (See below.)
If you are NOT on Facebook related content mostly the blocking effect comes from the program behind above number 3; it is called Google Disconnect. When Google Disconnect is active (when you are on a web page that wants to send information to Google) you see in your browser's address bar a red dot with Google's "g" in it. If Facebook Disconnect is active you see a blue dot with Facebook's "f" in it. Here is what it looks like (look for the red oval):
If you decide FOR watching the video then just click on the red "g" dot and then click "Unblock x Google requests" where "x" is the number of requests. The web page will reload and you can watch the video.

And naturally Google (and/or Facebook) will know about your interest in this video.

As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog.

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