It’s not only data protection legislation that is to blame for this, though that does account for the cookie notices at the gateway to every site. “We value your privacy” is the mantra of publishers who mean exactly the opposite.
The latest trend is for pop-ups to interrupt your reading, a few seconds after you thought you had clicked everything you had to, in order to carry on with your life. These will typically invite you to input your email address so you can be sent spam under the guise of “newsletters” or special offers.
This has happened with such uniformity because it is an out-of-the-box function of Wordpress, the most popular software for creating websites – used by corporation as well as individuals. The same platform also facilitates those “chat now” bubbles at the bottom of the screen, as well as other bells and whistles that make sites look “professional”. Web developers often charge their clients per feature, so they are keen to include as many as possible.
For for those who find them an irritation rather than an enhancement, a few workarounds are available, though none are bulletproof, and you may find yourself doing the online equivalent of herding cats.
If you use Chrome to browse the internet, as most of us now do, an extension called Poper Blocker (sic) does a reasonable job of zapping marketing overlays before they have had a chance to interrupt you. It will also stop malicious popups that appear under the page you’re viewing, in the hope that you won’t notice. It does not prevent the appearance of adverts, but will usually work in tandem with any separate ad blocker you have.
You install it like any Chrome extension, from within the browser itself. The easiest way is simply by Googling the name and then clicking the “add to Chrome” button.
Another add-on, AutoplayStopper, is designed to prevent the automatic playback of videos on sites you visit. Publishers are fond of using this technique because it counts as a “view”, whether you wanted to see it or not. AutoplayStopper will replace the footage with a simple thumbnail image.
Chrome itself has a feature, buried within its menu system, to disable another source of annoyance – those pop-ups that ask you to allow a website to send you notifications. Unless the site in question is your email client, it’s extremely unlikely you will want to ever hear from it, but the default arrangement is to have to decline each one individually.
But you can turn them all off by going to Chrome’s settings menu – click the three dots at the top-right of the screen to access it – and searching there for Notifications. Disabling the recommended option to “ask before saving” will, in theory, do the trick – although in practice it can be hit-or-miss.
As for the cookie notices themselves, an add-on called “I Don’t Care About Cookies” should zap most of them, even though it predates the EU data protection regulations that have been in force since last year. However, while it is doubtless true that you indeed don’t care about them, you should be aware that in swatting away the nag screens, you are also agreeing to most of the data collection, advert personalisation and other rubbish they want to send you.
That’s not necessarily a problem – most of it is harmless – but if you’re worried, you can clear your browser’s cache of cookies at any time by clicking Control-Shift-Delete while in Chrome and selecting the options you want.