Oct 7, 2014

How to stop websites hijacking your copy / paste.

Copy / Paste Hijacking

A couple of years ago I noticed an annoying trend: sometimes when I would copy and paste text from a website, in addition to the text I had actively selected I was seeing links back to the original website come up. In most cases these are not even pretty links (e.g. with a shortening service like bit.ly), and quite long, but in any case I was having undesired text injected into my selection.

The most popular service for this behavior by web sites is offered by Tynt. You can opt-out here, at the browser level (there are other slightly more technical ways to opt-out as well, but this works well). There is also an extension for Google Chrome that claims to do the same thing (and probably without Tynt directly knowing about it, which is worth something).

I noticed recently, though, while trying to copy and paste a joke from this site that Tynt opt-out wasn't working. Evidently, other services are doing the same thing. I found a Chrome Extension called "Kill Evil" and it works, but it's a couple of years old and reviews indicate some user experience issues. Unfortunately, although turning off this functionality seems easy in Firefox by disabling clipboard events, it can't be done in Chrome, the browser I use almost exclusively.

As of this writing, the good news is that the Tynt opt-out works quite well in most cases, but as with all such things on the internet, eventually people in charge of undesired content figure out ways to thrust it upon us, requiring yet more defenses.

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