Back in June Mozilla released the latest version of the Firefox browser with an oft-requested feature turned on by default. The feature? Blocking web trackers. Excellent news, especially to a Firefox addict like me.
And then, around a month ago, I was doing some long-delayed fixing of “stuff” on this blog (including updating jQuery, and all that entailed), and I popped open the Developer Tools and especially the Console. There, with an ominous counter that ticked up by 3 or 4 a second, was this warning:
Request to access cookie or storage on “<URL>” was blocked because it came from a tracker and content blocking is enabled.
Well, OK, investigate is possibly too strong a word. Since it didn’t come from my own hand-crafted JS, it must be something I’m importing. It also only happened on an individual blog post page, not on the initial entry page with the list of most recent blog posts. The difference? The code that set up AddThis on a post.
What’s AddThis? It’s essentially a platform to enable users to share content. So, for example, I’d set up AddThis on my blog to have a set of buttons to share the current post with Twitter, with Facebook, with Tumblr, to print it, etc. All stuff I could have written myself, sure, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Plus AddThis would send me synopses of traffic on my site every week or so. Little did I know, and should have known, is that in doing so it gathers information about my readers. Until the latest Firefox came along and smacked me.
Of course, I should have realized something was up: the stats produced by AddThis were always “fewer” than the ones I get from the blog engine that runs this site. Why? Because my readers, being technical code geeks, would be using ad blockers, etc, already.
So, I’ve now taken out the AddThis markup and code. If you want to share a post with your online followers, have at it: just copy the URL manually and share away. I might, in the future, put a couple of explicit buttons for Twitter and Facebook, but then again, maybe not.