August 16th, 2010
Recently, Google made available the “Google Analytics Opt-out Browser Add-on.” This add-on enables consumers to “indicate that information about the website visit should not be sent to Google Analytics.” We agree that making it easy for consumers to protect their privacy is good, and Internet Explorer offers a variety of features to help keep you in control of your information when visiting websites. In this post, we describe how to use some of these built in features to accomplish the same outcome without installing a Browser Helper Object and the Google Update Service.
Users of Internet Explorer 7 and 8 (and soon 9) who wish to prevent Google Analytics’ script from running can follow these steps:
- In Internet Explorer, open the Tools menu and click Internet Options.
- Click the Security tab and then click the Restricted Sites icon.
- Click the Sites button.
- In the box at the top, add *.google-analytics.com and push the Add button.
- Click the Close button, and then the OK button to dismiss Internet Options.
After this configuration change, script from the Google Analytics website will not run on any webpage, and cookies will never be sent to the Google Analytics server.
How does this simple procedure work? In IE7, we made a minor change to the Restricted Sites zone. IE will not run scripts that originate from sites the user places in the Restricted zone.
To protect your privacy further, IE will not send cookies to sites in the Restricted Sites zone. In general, you can block script from any other domains by also adding those domains to the Restricted Sites zone.
Add-ons are useful and important. They are also a key cause of performance, stability, and security issues for all browsers. A more trustworthy approach involves building more functionality into the core browser and relying more on data (in the form of declarative descriptions, like XML) than code to extend the browser. For example, Accelerators in IE are XML descriptions of how to get a map, rather than arbitrary script that can get a map and possibly do more (like slow down the browser, or share more information than you’d like). Webslices are XML descriptions of parts of a webpage to show on IE’s Favorites Bar, rather than arbitrary script that can modify IE’s user interface and possibly do more than that under the hood.
In this situation, rather than install and run a lot of additional software on the machine, people can just add a web site to the Restricted Sites zone. Similarly, InPrivate Filtering in IE8 (and IE9) supports Importing and Exporting lists of sites that the user doesn’t want to exchange information with. That’s a simpler, safer, faster and more reliable approach than running more code.