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​ATO removes 'bug' preventing use of website with security measures in place

The ATO said it has removed a 'bug' that was preventing full use of ato.gov.au when some adblockers, firewalls, and anti-virus security measures were in place.

After it was revealed earlier this month that the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) was preventing users from accessing its website if certain adblockers, firewalls, and anti-virus software was in place, the government entity has removed a "bug" it said was present on its ato.gov.au page.

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A Twitter user last week reached out to the ATO with a screenshot highlighting the website wasn't "working" unless he removed security features on his device.

"Your settings blocking this page from loading. This may be caused by one or more of the following: Adblocker software, anti-virus software, local network settings (eg firewall)," the message on the ATO website read.

In response, an ATO representative said its site-trackers collect anonymous usage data, and that it was working on allowing these to be disabled via browser add-on/adblockers.

"For now you'll need to trust/allow the tracker or wait for the fix which is scheduled to happen shortly," the ATO wrote on Twitter.

An ATO spokesperson told ZDNet that receiving such an alert on the ato.gov.au website could be due to a user having security in place that incorrectly classified its code as ad-like.

"Sometimes a client may have software or settings on their device which may incorrectly classify code in our online services as containing ads or other unwanted content," the spokesperson said. "For example, some adblockers can look for certain key words that contain 'ad' or 'advertising'.

"We reference occupation codes in myTax that contain these key words (eg advertising manager) resulting in the code being seen as potential ads and being blocked by the ad-blocker software."

The ATO however also said that it had become aware of a bug that was preventing certain pages from loading -- including the ATO Online home page -- if a certain tracker is blocked.

This tracker is no longer in use and was scheduled to be removed over the weekend.

"After this time, clients will be able to block other trackers and continue to use our site," the spokesperson continued.

"This can occur on many different sites, and clients may have to actively 'trust' or 'whitelist' our site to continue, or use a different device (in the case of Firewalls which are often used in public or corporate environments)."

Providing further information on how information is gathered by the ATO, the spokesperson confirmed it uses Google Analytics to "understand general user behaviour" such as page views in order to improve its services.

"These tools don't capture personal information and cannot identify users. Google Analytics can be blocked using a number of browser add-ons, including the Google Analytics Opt-out Browser Add-on provided by Google," they added.

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