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LSO ("Flash Cookies") and Media Player

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James Hewines | 12:40 UK time, Monday, 21 June 2010

Some users have noticed that they are no longer able to use the BBC's media player when they have disabled LSOs.

We have for some time employed LSOs in order to improve user experience of the media player by storing the last position of incompletely played programmes to enable the auto resume function and to remember a user's settings preferences. We also use them for statistical reporting to help us to better understand how our content is consumed. This reporting is on a strictly anonymous basis and we do not pass this data to any third parties. Users have always had the ability to disable LSOs so that this data is not stored, as explained in the Flash Cookies section on the BBC's Privacy site.

However, we are currently moving the media player to the latest version of ActionScript (an Adobe programming language) in order to deliver an improved media player. This is a complex process and will take several months of work by our technical teams. It means that for some of that time the media player will sit across both versions. The two versions of ActionScript are unable to speak to each other directly and we therefore need to use the LSOs as a tunnel to pass messages between the two.

We hope to be able to stop using LSOs for this technical purpose later this year but in the meantime you will not be able to disable LSOs without losing access to the BBC's media player. If you have disabled LSOs, you will need to re-enable them for the BBC website in order to use the media player.

Although this use of LSO is within the BBC's Privacy Policy I recognise that this is not an ideal situation. My technical teams are now working on completing the move to the latest version of ActionScript as soon as possible so we can remove the dependency. When we've done this users will once again be able to turn off LSO and still use the Media Player.

Thanks for your patience while we complete this work.

James Hewines is Head of BBCiPlayer


  • Comment number 1.

    "However, we are currently moving the media player to the latest version of ActionScript (an Adobe programming language) in order to deliver an improved media player."

    Would be interested to know if there was there any consideration of using HTML5 for this? Pros / cons, etc.

  • Comment number 2.

    @1 JoeAD:

    There is already an HTML5 version of the iplayer, however it's reserved for Apple products.

  • Comment number 3.

    If you are using Firefox there is a free plugin called BetterPrivacy that will easily let you delete LSOs from everyone else other than the BBC.

  • Comment number 4.

    @Alex, and Sony PS3, and a couple of specialist STB and embedded TV software vendors. Tough luck for platforms the BBC doesn't like, like Free Software, Android, any of the growing number of noname Asian TVs with integrated web browsers (least the ones whose vendors don't go and get approved by the BBC), etc.

  • Comment number 5.

    @4 Paul

    Is the PS3 using HTML5/MP4 now? I must admit I haven't noticed any difference recently and I'm sure it was using Flash originally.

    Time to get Wireshark out methinks.

  • Comment number 6.

    Alex, yes it's using the same front-end as iPad, according to the Beeb (and the BBC list a Sony root CA in the client cert request for the stream delivered to the HTML video iPlayer).

  • Comment number 7.

    I notice mention of the latest version of ActionScript. Can the BBC confirm that the following new Flash capabilities cannot be utilized by Adobe or Omniture whilst UK License payers are using flash to view BBC content....

    Omniture AutoTrack for automatic Flash analytics - An industry first. Omniture ActionSource can "listen" for appropriate click activity and automatically transmit appropriate information to Omniture for analysis.

    CLICKMAP for Flash - Omnitures visual overlay, Clickmap, is now integrated into Flash tracking through ActionSource. Depending on the state of the application, Clickmap can run and display an overlay of where users have clicked, and how much each click has contributed to other site activity.

    Incredible performance - Flash does not have to channel through browser actions and page level scripting. This allows for immediate code execution and high-speed data transactions.

    Transparent Analytics - Some javascript commands can cause the browser to render a "click" sound and/or hesitate animation playback. ActionSource executes independant of Javascript and is so efficient that TRACKING IS TRANSPARENT TO THE USER EXPERIENCE.

    Portability - Using native Actionscript technology, Omniture tracking can accompany Flash applications wherever they are accessed, even across domains and devices.

    Accurate Visitor metrics - Omniture ActionSource MAINTAINS UNIQUE visitor counts ACROSS TECHNOLOGIES, even though it is capturing and TRANSMITTING metrics data independant of Javascript. User privacy is upheld, and traditional cookies are used to maintain consistency with privacy advocates. This solution supports FIRST PARTY cookies to help consumer comfortable levels and REDUCED COOKIE BLOCKING.

    Larger data transmission sizes.

    Accurate link tracking - no longer needs Javascript

  • Comment number 8.

    I would also like to add that using flashblock.bat available on NoDPI.org forum, which effectively stops flash player and silverlight from saving any LSO's and the recent trend of some less scrupulous sites using LSO's to save a copy of normal HTTP cookies to circumvent the user having the browser clean out cookies....

    I have no such problems viewing youtube content for example, whereas BBC content with this recent development has become problematic.

    If I want to view BBC content I now have to open our machines up to LSO exploits sometimes not only used by advertising but also malware, the not so well known online adobe settings manager is notorious for being un-reliable, and can be bypassed with vbscript. As stated in the blog, not an ideal situation. I hope a solution can be found sooner rather than later in the year.

  • Comment number 9.

    Not allowing third party content also causes same problem - that's even more serious as you cannot specify individual sites to block, its a global setting only!
    When I emailed heldesk they seemed to know nothing about this situation.
    Can also confirm that I have no problems with flash using blocked LSOs and diasbled third party content on any other site but the BBC - not good!
    Also, how do we find out when the developers have got their act together and the problem has been sorted???

  • Comment number 10.

    Suggestion - For UK license payers/users not wishing to subject themselves to third party agreements which this site now encourages the installation of the highly intrusive flash player with regards privacy, and is also historically an in-secure plugin constantly requiring updates, which also introduces 'new features and amendments to the privacy policy' which we will be expected to review every time an auto update occurs with the newer versions of flash....

    Why not allow us to view the content we pay for via an open source plugin which supports every video codec under the sun.

    VLC has an activex plugin for internet explorer, and a mozilla plugin also utilized by the various google and non-google chrome fork developments. Because the bbc sites only recognise that I do not have flash installed, I cannot view bbc content.


  • Comment number 11.

    or even future html5 support, whereby we could restrict/block dom storage.

  • Comment number 12.

    I just dont understand why a licence payer should be forced into third party agreements to view content. What other choice is there?

  • Comment number 13.

    If I do not have a television, but do have a computer, then I am forced by law to pay the TV license because I have the capability to view BBC content. Considering the above questions - Right now what the hell am I paying for?

  • Comment number 14.

    I am aware of the BBC IPlayer, and its terms and conditions...

    [quote]I want to sign up to email updates relating to BBC iPlayer
    If you sign up to iPlayer email updates the BBC may include information about and links to content and services that we think might be of interest to you. To opt out of receiving any further updates please visit the BBC iPlayer site and unsubscribe.

    [b]The BBC will use some categories of information (including interest groups, year of birth, gender and region) to tailor the information it provides to you. The BBC may use third party service providers to provide this service but these service providers will only use your data on instruction from the BBC to provide these updates to you and never for their own commercial purposes[/b][/quote].

    I do not wish to agree to any third party agreement.

    Therefore my previous question still stands.

  • Comment number 15.

    No answers?

    Well then, does anyone know how to contact Vivian Redding EUC

    UK users, forced by law to pay a TV license, are being railroaded by the BBC to agree to third party software agreements because there is no other way of viewing BBC content?

  • Comment number 16.

    JSButler - I think you are drifting off topic. iPlayer is available on many different platforms and devices. Here's the current list. There are also many different ways of viewing BBC content which don't involve iPlayer.


  • Comment number 17.

    Apologies for drifting off-topic, and realise I had spammed my other post referencing the above but made a mistake posting in the wrong tab.

    However "many other ways of viewing BBC content" - Do any not include agreeing to a third party agreement?. I cannot find any.

  • Comment number 18.

    I believe that question is on topic for anyone wanting to avoid LSO exploits, considering at the moment LSO's have to be allowed.

  • Comment number 19.

    We were told that this matter would be resolved later this year once the move to the new ActionScript was complete. It's nearly November and the requirement to use LSO's is still there. Can we have an update please?

  • Comment number 20.

    Hi CheBourne - here's the update you requested.


  • Comment number 21.

    Thanks for the update - be good to have another one early in the new year?

  • Comment number 22.

    Is there any update to this post - we were promised resolution by Spring 2011?

  • Comment number 23.

    CheBourne - this was fixed in March and Samantha wrote this post about it then.


  • Comment number 24.

    Thanks Nick, it's great to hear that this issue has been fixed. When can we expect to see this rolled out?

  • Comment number 25.

    It looks like it has been rolled out but that there is still a requirement to have some Adobe flash options ticked - 'allow third-party flash content to store data on your computer'. I have posted to Samantha's update too.


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