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06 May 2010, 13:34

Adobe Flash 10.1 supports "private browsing"

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Flash Logo The forthcoming version 10.1 of Adobe's Flash Player is said to offer improved control of the infamous Flash cookies (also known as Local Shared Objects). Unlike browser cookies, Flash cookies have so far been impossible to disable or delete via the browser settings; they also ignore any browser privacy settings that may be in place. Furthermore, Flash cookies can contain considerably more data (100 KBytes) than regular cookies.

Because browser users may use Privacy Management options to delete or hide regular cookies, many web page operators use Flash cookies to recognise repeat visitors, visitors that are often unaware this is happening. Flash cookies can currently only be managed via the Flash Player settings – and can only be deleted via the Settings Manager on Adobe's web pages.

In modern browsers which offer a "private browsing" mode (IE 8, Firefox 3.5, Safari 2, Chrome), the new Flash plug-in will respect users' private browsing sessions. Both regular cookies and Flash cookies should then only be held in memory temporarily and should be gone after the private session has ended. In this mode, a web page is also unable to access web and Flash cookies that have been stored while browsing in normal mode.

With these features, Adobe has responded to the increasing amount of criticism from data protectionists and institutions such as the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), who have pointed out that there is no (easy) way for users to control Flash cookies, and that this causes an increasing amount of misusePDF. However, website operators fear that the new functionality will cause their authentication methods to malfunction and cause problems – which could trigger an increasing number of support requests.


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