Vivaldi updates its browsers to block annoying cookie pop-ups

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Vivaldi announced today that it will release the desktop and Android versions of its Vivaldi browser with the ability to block annoying cookie preference popups. Thanks to the passage of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), you’ve probably had to click through at least one dialog to ask if you want to manage how a site tracks you. With Vivaldi’s new update, you can avoid those notifications – with some important caveats – while still theoretically protecting you from tracking.

Vivaldi’s logic for the new feature, affectionately called ‘Cookie Crumbler’, is that it is okay to give users control over how they are tracked, but this via a popup ‘leads to clicking’ allow ‘or’ accept “without realizing that, unknowingly, users have just given permission to trackers to create behavioral profiles about them,” Vivaldi writes.

A cookie dialog from The Guardian.

Vivaldi built-in Ad Blocker can theoretically already deal with hiding users from the various tracking methods used by sites, so Cookie Crumbler is all about getting rid of the annoying hangers – the popup notifications that prompt users to adjust how they are tracked, if at all not. Users with an updated version of Vivaldi (as of today version 3.8) can enable Cookie Crumbler by going to Settings> Privacy> Tracker and Ad Blocking> Manage Sources> Delete Cookie Warnings List. The same feature can be enabled on the Android version of Vivaldi under the same menus.

“Cookie Crumbler” can be enabled on Android in the same menu that controls Vivaldi’s ad and tracker blocking.
Image: Vivaldi

Cookie Crumbler pulls out two separate third-party blocklists to work, but “this isn’t a perfect solution as there will be a few websites that use different tactics to get cookie consent,” says Vivaldi. Enabling Cookie Crumbler can also make some sites completely inaccessible on desktop and mobile, depending on whether the site blocks certain functionality behind interacting with the cookie dialog. Losing access to some websites is a major inconvenience for a web browser designed to visit websites, so Cookie Crumbler may not be enabled by default.

Vivaldi also takes an even stronger stance on Google’s cookie alternative, FLoC, or Federated Learning of Cohorts. FLoC builds cohorts from users’ browsing history to sort them semi-anonymously by interests or qualities for websites looking to sell ads. It appears less directly invasive than a traditional cookie, but also relies heavily on browser makers implementing it correctly to be safe.

Vivaldi is definitely not okay with Google’s implementation of FLoC and doesn’t allow it in its browser, despite relying on Google’s Chromium codebase. With today’s updated version of Vivaldi, it also blacklisted the FLoC component required for Google’s current ad technology test, removes it from browsers in which it may have already been downloaded, and prevents it from appearing in the future will be downloaded.

Vivaldi 3.8 also adds new customization options for the browser’s Panels feature (think SlideOver in iPadOS but for websites) and a new keyboard command for adding bookmarks. The Android version of the app can now also switch between the 41 languages ​​that Vivaldi supports, instead of relying on Android’s built-in language settings.