Privacy add-ons merged to create powerful tool for Web browsers

TACO with Abine blocks tracking from 95 advertising networks and shows users how they're tracked by Web sites

A browser extension for Firefox has been combined with a set of privacy applications that give users more control over how their personal information is shared online.

The extension is the Targeted Advertising Cookie Opt-Out or TACO, developed by Christopher Soghoian. TACO is aimed at stopping online advertising networks from setting cookies, or small data files, on a person's computer that record information about their Web surfing, which can the be used to serve targeted advertisements.

Many of the online advertising companies offer an "opt-out" cookie, which will exempt a particular user from being tracked, but the user often must visit a Web site in order to obtain that cookie, according to Soghoian's Web site. Also, if a user inadvertently deletes the cookie, in some cases they may have to go to obtain specific opt-out cookies again.

The latest 3.0 version of TACO can now block a total of 95 advertising networks. It also shows more granular detail on what tracking systems Web sites are using and displays them in a console when a person visits a new Web page. Further controls allow people to block particular tracking systems while allowing others. TACO 3.0 can also show if the site has had a recent data breach.

Soghoian has also partnered with Abine, a company started in 2008 that specializes in creating consumer privacy applications that have have been wrapped into the extension. Albine built privacy extensions for both Firefox and Internet Explorer.

Albine's privacy applications have been combined with TACO into a powerful extension that can let users manage and block Flash cookies, other JavaScript-based tracking methods, HTTP cookies, a password management feature and a way to auto-fill in forms using a preconfigured set of identity information, among others.

"Abine has the resources necessary to keep improving TACO, maintain the opt-out cookie list, and add other innovative features to enable users to protect themselves from online targeting and tracking," according to Soghoian. "They'll be able to provide the kind of frequent updates, ongoing support and development that users expect from the software tools they trust."

TACO 3.0 with Albine can also block single-sign on features such as Facebook Connect. Albine's software also allows people to control their Facebook privacy settings through the extension.

Albine is in beta and requires an invitation which can be obtained through the company's Web site. The company plans to make money by offering other services connected with its application, such as fast proxies, premium e-mail and phone features.

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Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
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