Same Origin Policy:
Protecting Browser State from Web Privacy Attacks

Stanford University Computer Science Department

Stanford Seal


Through a variety of means, including a range of browser cache methods and inspecting the color of a visited hyperlink, client-side browser state can be exploited to track users against their wishes. This tracking is possible because persistent, client-side browser state is not properly partitioned on per-site basis in current browsers. We address this problem by refining the general notion of a "same-origin" policy and by designing and implementing two browser extensions that apply a same-origin policy to the browser cache and visited links. We also analyze various degrees of cooperation between sites to track users, and show that even if long-term browser state is properly partitioned, it is still possible for sites to use modern web features to bounce users between sites and invisibly engage in cross-domain tracking of their visitors. Cooperative privacy attacks are an unavoidable consequence of all persistent browser state that affects the behavior of the browser, and disabling or frequently expiring this state is the only way to achieve true privacy against colluding parties.


Here are some proof-of-concept sites to demonstrate cache and visited-link based tracking techniques. They can be used to determine whether SafeCache and SafeHistory are working.


These Firefox browser extensions enforce a same-origin policy on cache and visited links.



Stanford Security Lab