I’m hopeful for this new feature!

Automatically Disable Blocking in Private Browsing Mode

So, I'm discovering that more and more websites (Home Depot, Barnes & Noble, etc.) don't work well with their little tracking bugs disabled. Currently, I've been entering Private Browsing mode (in Safari), telling Ghostery to not block on their sites, doing what I need to do, closing out of Safari (thus turning off Private Browsing), opening it again, and then telling Ghostery to block their sites once again.

Would it be possible to include as a feature in a future release, the option to tell Ghostery to turn off blocking when Private Browsing is enabled in Safari, so that if I turned on Private Browsing, these websites could employ their tracking bugs and function properly? That'd be pretty cool, and shouldn't be too hard to do with Safari's API.
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  • Hi Spencer,

    The problem with this approach is that deleting cookies/browsing history afterwards (which is what private browsing does) does not address what the companies learned about you on their end.

    The most private/secure setting is to block the element, which eliminates all communication between that element's server and your computer, removing any chance of personal data leakage. Private browsing mode is meant to be more, not less private.

    As for sites breaking, we are in the process of introducing various Ghostery features to lessen this issue.

    In the meantime, I recommend disabling third-party cookies in Safari and either (temporarily) permitting the bugs required to make the site work, or (temporarily) telling Ghostery to not block on the site.

    The Firefox version of Ghostery provides finer-grained cookie control that allows you to forbid updates for certain cookie domains.
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  • Alexei,

    Thanks for your reply. Are you saying Private Browsing is more or less secure than Ghostery's Blocking feature? I am aware that it's less secure in regard to the fact that companies are still capable of gathering data regarding my usage if the Blocking feature is disabled, but it was (at the time of this posting) the only viable alternative I saw to being able to successfully browse these websites while still retaining as much privacy as possible.

    If you and the rest of the Ghostery team are working to institute features that would resolve the inability of websites (e.g., Home Depot, Barnes & Noble, Target, Lowe's, etc.) to function properly with their tracking bugs blocked, then I'm stoked, as that would certainly resolve the issue which sparked this feature request. If not, then I would still suggest instituting a feature like this in a future Ghostery release.

    Please clarify whether such features would resolve the issues seen on these websites, because if they would, then there's no need for a feature such as the one I've suggested above. Thanks again, Alexei.

    Best Regards,
    Spencer
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  • My point is that Private Browsing comes with some expectation of being more private, so we shouldn't put in any Ghostery features that would result in you ending up being less private.

    I suggest configuring Safari to block third-party cookies. This will basically replace having to activate Private Browsing mode in order to remove cookies placed by unblocked elements.

    For now, the easiest thing to do when a page doesn't work is to tell Ghostery to not block on the page and reload.

    One of the features we are working on is providing "surrogates", or dummy scripts to replace certain blocked scripts. These dummy scripts will help the page continue working while blocking the original tracking scripts. The first version of this feature is already available in Ghostery for Firefox, and is in the works for other browsers.
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  • Alexei,

    I think you still misunderstand what I'm trying to accomplish. Blocking third-party cookies is a given, but it still doesn't solve the problem of pages not working. The added Surrogate feature sounds like it will do the job, though. Do you have a (rough) timeline for its release with the Safari edition of Ghostery?

    Thanks so much,
    Spencer
    • No, no, I understand. Sites tend to break when certain third-party components are blocked (Omniture is a common culprit). You suggested we disable blocking in Private Browsing as part of your workaround. I replied explaining why we shouldn't do exactly this, but acknowledging this is a common issue. I also suggested a slightly better workaround (disable 3rd-party cookies, use site "whitelisting"). The 3rd-party cookie suggestion is meant to replace the need to have to go in and out of Private Browsing.

      Surrogate support is likely to come in the next, or the one after next, major update of Ghostery for Safari.
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