James O'Neill's Blog

February 10, 2011

IE9 and getting to grips with privacy

Filed under: Uncategorized — jamesone111 @ 10:04 pm

I wrote a post a few weeks ago entitled “One small step for IE9, one giant leap for privacy”. With the arrival of IE9 release candidate things have changed a little bit: the only words I can repeat from my initial reaction are STUPID and BROKEN but whilst things are not quite as I would have liked they are nowhere near as bad I first feared

First the bad….

  1. You can no longer import /export   block /allow lists. Previously you could export the list which IE built up, hand edit the XML and re-import it. This was tedious to do and only  worked at very small scale.
  2. The XML format announced by  Dean Hachamovitch Corporate Vice President, Internet Explorer in December   – which was the self same format used in import and export  appears to have been abandoned. The new format is a a text file, but doesn’t use the de-facto standard (adblocker for firefox).
  3. Microsoft was previously accused – by the Wall Street Journal no less of sabotaging the protection offered by in private filtering. When people take a good look at the Lists Microsoft is promoting  there may be fresh accusations that they are poor filleted things.
  4. The auto-blocking is a bit heavy handed – on my system it blocked on WordPress’s stylesheets. I can find the offending block and make it an allow, but most users won’t be able to and will turn their own personal block lists off.

Let’s expand on that third point.  I can’t see any sense in changing from the XML format to a text file but not allowing people to import the lists used by the ad-blocker add-on for Firefox.  If you want to believe in a conspiracy, then Microsoft is too cosy with advertisers. Microsoft’s page actually has an entry from Easy List described thus: “EasyPrivacy Tracking Protection List is based on the popular EasyPrivacy subscription for Adblock Plus and is managed by the well-known EasyList project“. Quite true and there’s   2,581 lines of it. But main EasyList which blocks 10,000 plus sites is not available (though it shouldn’t take long to convert it)

So the good.

  1. It only takes a couple of minutes with PowerShell to get the XML files into the new text format. Since my old list blocked or allowed whole domains , and used the same text as a description as it had in the “block regex” or “allow regex”, I just needed to see if a row was a block or an allow, and prefix the domain name with “+d” or “-d”  converting  “\.” to “.” in the description as I went.
    $x=[xml](get-content C:\users\Public\Documents\export.xml | %{$_ -replace "item","rssItem" })
    $x.rss.channel.rssItem | where {$_.blockregex}  | % {"-d " + $_.description -replace "\\\.","."} | clip

    $x.rss.channel.rssItem | where {$_.allowregex}  | % {"+d " + $_.description -replace "\\\.","."}  |clip
    The first line reads the XML and the second and third place the text in the clipboard and I can paste it into notepad with a file which starts
    : Expires=5

    The first line is obvious and the second is the number of days to wait between updates. Simples. I could have done it all in PowerShell without bothering with notepad/

  2. It’s pretty easy to put an “Add my TPL” link on a page  it goes
    <a href="javascript:window.external.msAddTrackingProtectionList ('http://server.MyDomain.com/myFileText, 'Description’')">Add TPL</a>
    I couldn’t get this to work with File:// urls, or skydrive and wordpress filters out that kind of link. Grrr
  3. Active X blocking.  Read “flash blocking”. This is new for RC. Regular readers will know I hate flash which wants to pull my attention away from the content I’m trying to read. No active-X means No flash. But sometimes you need flash turning it on and off is a pain. Now you get this 
    I’ve circled the the “content blocked” icon on the address bar. Click it and you can turn off what you want – and it seems to apply to that site only , but on all future visits – though you can turn it back on.

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