Monday, July 27, 2009

TACO 2.0 released

Update: Mozilla has approved TACO 2.0. All current TACO users should see a prompt to update the add-on the next time they restart Firefox.

I am happy to announce the release of version 2.0 of the Targeted Advertising Cookie Opt-out (TACO) Firefox add-on.

This version has been completely rewritten from scratch, primarily by Daniel Witte @ Mozilla Corp. It also includes opt-out cookies for 6 additional advertising companies: Snoobi, comScore VoiceFive, Hurra, Criteo, Coremetrics and EyeWonder.

I am waiting for the nice folks at Mozilla to read through the code and then approve it. If you lack patience, and simply cannot wait, TACO 2.0 can be installed by clicking here. Otherwise, wait a few days until Mozilla approves it, and then the 100,000 or so existing TACO users should receive an automatic update to this new version.

A total rewrite

The original TACO was essentially a fork of Google's Advertising Cookie Opt Out Plugin. Google's original tool included one cookie -- I simply modified it to include an additional 100 or so opt out cookies.

The problem is that Google's original code wasn't all that good -- it would reload all of the opt-out cookies each time a new window/tab was opened, and then force them to be reloaded again every 10 minutes, even if none of the opt-out cookies had changed.

Perhaps this isn't such a big deal for a tool that is designed to install a single opt-out cookie. However, it clearly didn't scale well.

Unfortunately, my Javascript skills are pretty horrible, and so I really wasn't up to the task of rewriting TACO by myself. Luckily, Daniel Witte, Mozilla's resident cookie guru offered to lend a hand, and eventually rewrote the entire add-on from scratch.

This new version is considerably faster, and no longer re-installs 100+ cookies into the browser each time a new tab/window is opened nor does it reinstall them again every 10 minutes after that.

Blocking third party cookies

One of the biggest complaint from TACO power-users was that the tool would not function when the user had configured the browser to block all 3rd party cookies (a suggested practice, and one which both Safari and Chrome do by default). I am happy to announce that TACO now plays nicely with blocked 3rd party cookies, and so the paranoid amongst you should feel free to go ahead and block them without having to worry about it breaking TACO.

A note about EyeWonder

Finally, blog-readers may remember that I recently pointed to EyeWonder's non-existent broken opt-out as an example of one the worst practices in the industry.

After 9 days, it looks like the company finally designed and implemented fixed the opt-out, and so users of TACO 2.0 are automatically opted out of all of EyeWonder's behavioral advertising.


Anonymous said...

Chris, here's your chance to weigh in on White House cookie policy:

Elena said...

Thank you for your advice about browser addons, which I find particularly helpful and useful. It was thanks to one of your articles quite a long time ago that I discovered CustomizeGoogle. If there are addons that you use for your own browsing privacy, I sure as hell want to use them too. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Why is it when I load TACO in Firefox 3.5.5, and go to TOOLS, OPTIONS, SHOW COOKIES, There are many cookies listed as an exception? When I delete all the cookies, they are immediately re-loaded.

The only way to get rid of them is to uninstall TACO, run cleaners and they are gone.

Anonymous said...

"Why is it when I load TACO in Firefox 3.5.5, and go to TOOLS, OPTIONS, SHOW COOKIES, There are many cookies listed as an exception? When I delete all the cookies, they are immediately re-loaded."

Because the cookies are meant to be permanent and need to be present to do their job. They are what tells the participating trackers to opt-out.

tankmiche said...

The URL you are pointing is redirecting to Abine's TACO.

Please check if that's your add-on. Some comments report it's a spyware.