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Enable Javascript to View This Image

Published: 8th of January 2022

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Over the past-weeks, I have used the Tor browser more often for both regular browsing and researching subjects for upcoming blogs posts. As I was running Tor with the “safest” security setting, JavaScript is disabled.

This makes sense from both a privacy and security standpoint. As websites using JavaScript can extract a scary amount of information about your device. This allows websites to create a unique browser fingerprint more easily. That is not even going into the browser vulnerabilities exploited by JavaScript.

Disabling JavaScript, however, exposes the utter its overuse on the internet. In fact, many websites that should not require JavaScript to view content are partially or fully broken or outright block anyone who has JavaScript disabled.

One example is Imgur.

I was surfing some Sub-Reddit’s. Found a couple of meme images and wanted to view them in a larger size than the postage-stamp sized Reddit preview.

Upon clicking on the thumbnail, it took me to the image hosted on imgur.com. Or I was meant to be, instead an error appeared. This read; “If you’re seeing this message, that means JavaScript has been disabled on your browser, please enable JS to make Imgur work.”

Yes, Imgur requires you to run JavaScript to load an image.

There is no real reason loading an image should require the use of JavaScript. That’s if they really needed it JavaScript to load the image and not a deliberate block to enable JavaScript based tracking…

let’s next load up a VPN’ed browser and see what tracking scripts are being loaded.

Brave showing page on imgur.com as the browser having blocked 13 trackers and ads

As you can see from the above screenshot, 13 trackers and ADs are being loaded, including from Facebook, Media Lab (The owner of Imgur), Quantcast (Website Analytics), Alexa, primis (Video recommendation provider), Ad Lightning, Yieldlove (Header bidding) and Google Tag Manager.

That is an almost impressive amount of user tracking for a website meant for viewing images and probably explains why Imgur forces users to enable JavaScript.

GDPR Pop-up

Even worse, Imgur tried to load these tracking script (blocked by Brave) without me clicking on the Agree button on the “GDPR” pop-up (The VPN was within the EU). So not even are Imgur forcing users to enable JavaScript but are also will also try to load a bunch of tracking scripts without being granted permission, fantastic.

These problems, pointed out in the blog post, apply to many other websites.

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