Blocking LSOs (Flash Cookies) and the BBC

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I wanted to block LSOs (Locally Stored Objects) commonly known as Flash cookies in Internet Explorer – for those of you who don’t know what LSOs are: they are an alternative to cookies as a means of tracking your online usage
(see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Local_Shared_Object).

I used the Adobe settings that they provide by right clicking on a flash image and choosing global settings. Adobe has an unusual way of allowing you to change your settings – rather than the settings menu being within the local flash plugin they send you to an Adobe website location. This seems dodgy in itself but that’s another story and there are other ways of blocking LSOs (see: https://nodpi.org/forum for IE; Use BetterPrivacy plugin for Firefox). Under the Global Storage Settings Panel you can set storage to zero, tick never ask again, untick Allow 3rd party content – this seems to block LSOs from being created (remember to delete your currently stored LSOs under the Peer-Assisted Networking Panel).

However, I did not have any problems viewing flash content until I tried viewing a news article on the BBC website – http://news.bbc.co.uk. The flash video would not run, despite trying to fiddle with the LSO settings the video either failed to start or I got a message that the content could not be displayed. It seemed that the BBC was using a 3rd party provider and that they require 3rd party content access and some storage space otherwise the video will not load.

The BBC website helpdesk was no help at all – did not have a clue what I was on about. Eventually I came across the following article on the BBC forums: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs

This explains why the BBC was the only site I had a problem with. I am still awaiting a resolution to this.

Update October 2010: still no word on when the BBC is going to resolve the problem. I am pressing them for a response.

Update November 2010: The BBC have responded (see: BBC Response. Looks like they’re dragging this on until Spring 2011, if not beyond.

Update July 2011: I had extensive technical discussions with the BBC regarding this issue and was told they would investigate further and get back to me – they were under the impression that no local storage was taking place if you specifically blocked it. They never did get back to me and the posts on the BBC site have now been closed to comments! What I have found is that the new version of Flash has completely changed its privacy system – it now obeys the browsers settings. So if you have IE set to delete all content on exit the flash cookies will also be deleted. Good stuff, but this does not prevent flash cookies in the first place – however, you can set flash to block all LSO’s by right clicking, choosing Global Settings and setting block options. This seems to work for all sites i.e. flash still works. In the case of the BBC site a folder is created under %APPDATA%RoamingMacromediaFlash Player#SharedObjects but nothing is put into it. This folder disappears on exiting browser if you have the browser delete option on. So it has been indirectly resolved by Adobe rather than the BBC.

 

Update October 2011: The flash problem on the BBC news site is back! If you set all flash cookies to be blocked and your flash cache has been cleared the video’s on BBC news site will not work (other videos on BBC site as a whole do work). If you set flash to not block the videos they work and you can then set flash to block again and they still work, but if you have your browser set to delete cookies then the cache will clear on exit and you will have the same problem next time (in other words the BBC news videos require something to be downloaded). Have contacted BBC again and will post any response.

Author: James

IT Manager - Network, Web coding, MS SQL and Online Mapping expert

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