Adobe Plans Flash Player Privacy Changes

Adobe Systems is integrating local storage-management features in its Flash Player with the user interface in browsers such as Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.

Adobe Systems has changes in store for its Flash Player as part of an effort to improve user privacy.

Those changes will start with new integration between popular Web browsers and Flash Player's management features for LSOs (local shared objects).

"Since local storage allows sites and apps to remember information, there are concerns about the use of local storage to store tracking information-or, of greater concern, to restore tracking information to a browser cookie that a user has intentionally deleted," blogged Emmy Huang, group product manager for Flash Player. "This use of local data storage has raised questions about privacy."

As a result, Adobe has been collaborating with vendors to integrate LSO management with the user interface in popular browsers, including Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari and Microsoft Internet Explorer. The goal, Huang explained, is to allow users to clear LSOs-and any local storage, such as that of HTML5 and other plug-in technologies-from the browser-settings interface.

"Representatives from several key companies, including Adobe, Mozilla and Google have been working together to define a new browser API (NPAPI ClearSiteData) for clearing local data, which was approved for implementation on January 5, 2011," Huang wrote. "Any browser that implements the API will be able to clear local storage for any plug-in that also implements the API."

Users already have the ability to clear local storage through the Flash Player Settings Manager. In addition, the private browsing feature in Flash Player 10.1, which integrates with the private browsing mode in major browsers, automatically deletes any local storage written by Websites when someone using their browser's privacy mode closes their Web session.

According to Huang, Adobe plans to redesign the Flash Player Settings Manager this year-in the name of simplicity.

"Focused on usability, this redesign will make it simpler for users to understand and manage their Flash Player settings and privacy preferences," Huang blogged. "In addition, we'll enable you to access the Flash Player Settings Manager directly from your computer's Control Panels or System Preferences on Windows, Mac and Linux, so that they're even easier to locate and use. We expect users will see these enhancements in the first half of the year, and we look forward to getting feedback as we continue to improve the Flash Player Settings Manager."