Friday, January 18, 2019

Stop Google Search Results Tracking

Jeff Johnson:

When you click on the link, the onmousedown action runs some JavaScript that swaps the original URL with a new tracking URL. Google does this as you click, right under your nose. Or finger.

By default, StopTheMadness has ⌘-Click and Drag and Drop protections enabled. A side effect of these protections is that you’re also protected from link hijacking. Why? Clicking on a link in a browser is preceded and triggered by mousedown and mouseup events. Thus, if a web site could hijack these events, it could prevent the link click from working as expected. This is why StopTheMadness prevents mousedown and mouseup events from getting hijacked when you ⌘-click on a link. But what about clicks without the ⌘ key? StopTheMadness prevents mousedown from getting hijacked whenever you click on a link, even without the ⌘ key, because dragging a link in a browser is preceded and triggered by a mousedown event. For full protection against link hijacking, then, you need both ⌘-Click and Drag and Drop protections enabled (as they both are by default).

I’ve stopped using Ghostery and other content-blocking/anti-tracking Safari plug-ins because I’m tired of them breaking sites. StopTheMadness provides less privacy protection, but it fixes the really annoying things that sites do while causing far fewer problems.

4 Comments RSS · Twitter

Leo, Just Leo

Michael, you should really look into AdGuard for macOS, or the less capable but free AdGuard for Safari.

The only sites they "break" are the most invasive on your privacy. Yes, I also run "Stop the Madness" which just added FireFox support.

I did find that UBlock Origin (also) breaks things, but in all cases sites that you need "not to be broken" can be whitelisted.

The nice thing is that Stop the Madness does not conflict with either AdG or UBo in my experience.

@Leo Yeah, I know I can whitelist, but it’s maddening to waste time with a site not working because I didn’t realize I needed to whitelist it, or I only whitelisted it on my other Mac, or in the other blocker, etc. Often, when something breaks, I’ve already entered a bunch of information into the site, and it gets lost if I have to back up and whitelist.

If we disable JavaScript before performing the search, all the search results links are the tracking URLs! Hover the mouse over any result link and the actual URL can be clearly seen embedded in the tracking URL. For example:

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