Thomas MacaulaySenior reporter
Thomas is a senior reporter at TNW. He covers European tech, with a focus on deeptech, startups, and government policy. Thomas is a senior reporter at TNW. He covers European tech, with a focus on deeptech, startups, and government policy.
The EU may have brought freedoms, peace, and wealth to millions of people, but all those benefits have been nullified by one horrendous drawback: cookie pop-ups.
Quite struck on this visit how ubiquitous and how pointless cookie warnings are on the web in Europe. It’s more surprising to click through and *not* see a warning than to see one. 🧵 pic.twitter.com/DkvdDiktY8
— David Singleton (@dps) December 27, 2019
The consent banners enforced by the bloc’s privacy regulations are among the internet’s most irritating features.
The lawmakers behind them may have had good intentions, but they’ve merely trained us to blindly click through every notification.
After years of suffering this digital torture, a new AI tool has finally offered hope of an escape.
Named CookieEnforcer, the system was created by researchers from Google and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The system was created to stop cookies from manipulating people into making website-friendly choices that put their privacy at risk. Yet it could also end the constant hassle of navigating the notices.
In testing on the top 500 websites in the Tranco ranking list, the team found that the tool was 91% effective at automatically disabling non-essential cookies.
The system first detects the dreaded warnings by scanning the rendering pattern of their HTML elements.
CookieEnforcer then analyses the notices and predicts which actions will disable all unnecessary cookies. Finally, the machine-learning model selects the chosen settings.
“This is done by modeling the problem as a sequence-to-sequence task, where the input is a machine-readable cookie notice and the output is the set of clicks to make,” the researchers explain in their pre-print study paper.
Unfortunately, the tool isn’t yet available to the public, but the team plans to launch it as a simple browser extension.
While you wait, there are a few other means of bypassing cookie pop-ups, such as DuckDuckGo’s new browser for Mac.
In this era of ads, trolls, and tech barons ruining the internet, it’s reassuring to know that digital soldiers are still fighting the good fight.
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