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Whether you know it or not, most websites you visit are slyly tracking you, sending private details, usage patterns, and other data about you to a far away server. It’s a major privacy concern. Stop giving your data to untrustworthy sources with Electronic Frontier Foundation’s new browser extension, Privacy Badger.

The silly name aside, Privacy Badger’s aim is to be a silent protector for regular users, to the extent that you should never need to interact with it. Working in the background, its job is to guard your information from unintentionally being sent to advertisers and malicious third parties.

Download: Privacy Badger for Google Chrome

Download: Privacy Badger for Mozilla Firefox

(More desktop browsers are coming soon, along with Firefox Mobile)

What Does Privacy Badger Do?

Privacy-Badger-Intro

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When you are browsing, something like the social buttons on web pages can track you How To Block Facebook And Other Social Networks From Tracking You Online How To Block Facebook And Other Social Networks From Tracking You Online Whenever you visit a site with a Like, Tweet or +1 button, you're actually sharing data with Facebook, Twitter or Google. And that's not all. There are hundreds of advertising and data collection companies that... Read More , sending that data to someone else. You never consented to this, but it’s happening. Privacy Badger will identify such trackers and stop them from loading. It will also replace the social buttons with its own, safe social buttons. The rest of the website with its safe elements continues to work as normal.

In a nutshell: We’ve told you what cookies are and how you can manually disable them What's A Cookie & What Does It Have To Do With My Privacy? [MakeUseOf Explains] What's A Cookie & What Does It Have To Do With My Privacy? [MakeUseOf Explains] Most people know that there are cookies scattered all over the Internet, ready and willing to be eaten up by whoever can find them first. Wait, what? That can’t be right. Yes, there are cookies... Read More . Sometimes, that can break the page you want to see, or stop “good” cookies that enhance your web experience. Privacy Badger smartly disables only “harmful” cookies, and does its best to load the web page as is.

Privacy Badger also might block some ads, but that is not its purpose. It’s a side effect of blocking tracking elements, so if an ad is trying to send your data back without your consent, the extension will eliminate those trackers as best as possible—sometimes, that results in the whole ad being blocked.

Do You Have to Do Anything?

icon-colors-gets-better-with-usage

On most occasions, no. Privacy Badger is meant to work in the background and is supposed to intelligently block trackers, learning as you use it more. However, sometimes it too will break a page in its zeal to protect you. When that happens, you will have to get involved.

Click the Privacy Badger icon and the menu will show you all the elements it has blocked or allowed in a page. You can drag the slider next to any element and set it to red (block completely) or green (allow completely). Privacy Badger also maintains a list of “yellow” elements, which are tracking you but are deemed by EFF to be essential to loading a page correctly. That said, the extension will do its best to stop third-party cookies and referrers from it.

Why Do You Need Privacy Badger?

Privacy Badger also uses EFF’s recently launched Do Not Track (DNT) Policy, which is basically an agreement between web administrators and users to not track, retain and distribute private data, unless the user gives his consent. You can read a plain English version of what DNT means, the long legalese version, or just quickly find out if it’s for you with this table:

graph-is-dnt-for-you

Why Privacy Badger Over Existing Tools?

privacy-badger-ghostery-disconnect2

Privacy Badger isn’t the first tool of its kind. We have covered the essential extensions to block tracking and scripts Control Your Web Content: Essential Extensions to Block Tracking and Scripts Control Your Web Content: Essential Extensions to Block Tracking and Scripts The truth is, there is always someone or something monitoring your Internet activity and content. Ultimately, the less information we let these groups have the safer we'll be. Read More , featuring popular options like Ghostery, NoScript, Disconnect, and more. So what makes Privacy Badger special?

The biggest reason is that it is developed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The EFF is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting digital rights of consumers. It takes on issues like government transparency, equal rights and laws, blogging and coding legal rights, privacy, and more. In essence, the EFF is the consumer’s lobbyist for digital matters The Electronic Frontier Foundation - What It Is & Why It Is Important The Electronic Frontier Foundation - What It Is & Why It Is Important Electronic Frontier Foundation is an international non-profit group based in the US, committed to fighting for digital rights. Let's take a look at some of their campaigns and how they can help you. Read More . In the FAQ section, it explains why it felt the need to develop Privacy Badger:

“Although we like Disconnect, Adblock Plus, Ghostery and similar products (in fact Privacy Badger is based on the ABP code!), none of them are exactly what we were looking for. In our testing, all of them required some custom configuration to block non-consensual trackers. Several of these extensions have business models that we weren’t entirely comfortable with.”

There is some truth to what they say. Ghostery kicked a hornet’s nest a few years ago when users found it that its parent company, Evidon, sells user data to ad companies. Ghostery offers the necessary options to disable this from the user’s side, but you need to actively do that; by default, you will be sending your data to Ghostery, which it can later sell. This conflict of interest has drawn criticism from privacy rights advocates in the past.

Similarly, NoScript is best to tackle JavaScript, which has severe privacy and security flaws 3 Ways JavaScript Can Breach Your Privacy & Security 3 Ways JavaScript Can Breach Your Privacy & Security JavaScript is a good thing for the most part, but it just happens to be so flexible and so powerful that keeping it in check can be difficult. Here's what you need to know. Read More . However, it can be aggressive in its blocking policies and end up breaking the web page you want to load AdBlock, NoScript & Ghostery - The Trifecta Of Evil AdBlock, NoScript & Ghostery - The Trifecta Of Evil Over the past few months, I've been contacted by a good number of readers who have had problems downloading our guides, or why they can't see the login buttons or comments not loading; and in... Read More .

Can You Trust the EFF?

The big question then is whether you can trust the EFF. It has some well-known and trustworthy names on its board, like security expert and privacy advocate Bruce Schneier Security Expert Bruce Schneier On Passwords, Privacy and Trust Security Expert Bruce Schneier On Passwords, Privacy and Trust Read More . And yet, it came under heavy criticism for saying Dropbox has its users’ backs. Dropbox was one of the companies named by Edward Snowden in the infamous NSA leaks, where he claimed they actively cooperated with the government.

So, we ask you: Do you trust the EFF over other companies, and is that reason enough to install Privacy Badger?

  1. spiffyspaceman88
    August 14, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    Privacy Badger does not use a pre-compiled block list, it detects blockers on its own as it goes. A freshly-installed copy of Privacy Badger will detect very few blockers, but as you rack up more browsing history it will detect more trackers as it notices patterns across the web. That's actually much more intelligent than Ghostery or Disconnect, in my opinion.

    Case in point: I've been using Privacy Badger for a little under a week, and it currently detects 16 "potential trackers" on makeuseof.com. 4 domains blocked entirely, 10 domains whose cookies are blocked, and 2 that it's taken no action against.

    • spiffyspaceman88
      August 14, 2015 at 10:17 pm

      ^That was supposed to be a response to fcd76218's comment, but I guess I missed. Oops.

      • Mihir Patkar
        August 18, 2015 at 1:00 pm

        Whooops, just saw this, haha!

    • Mihir Patkar
      August 18, 2015 at 1:00 pm

      Thanks, this is an informational reply! I guess you meant to say this as a response to fcd76218's comment?

  2. Luke Rumfelt
    August 11, 2015 at 11:00 pm

    I tried PB for a couple days in chrome and had to delete it. I like the concept but it slowed down day to day browsing too much for my liking.

    I use an adblocker so the majority of trackers that track me to serve advertising are useless because I never see the ads.
    '
    Also of note. If an ad does slip through adblocker it is reported and I generally don't go back to that site because they actively use anti-adblocker technology.

    I regard advertising as propaganda of the highest sort and will not allow it into my life if at all possible and avoid those who try and push it on me.

    I do not feel guilty at all for doing this because whether I see it or not, I will not buy anything I have seen advertised or promoted to me due to a desire not to have my opinions manipulated for the purpose of business.

    I go out of my way to consciously think of what I need and avoid all sorts of behaviors that lead to impulse shopping.

    This is my concept of being a good consumer.

    • Mihir Patkar
      August 13, 2015 at 6:35 pm

      I believe we could be friends in real life, Luke :D

      • Luke Rumfelt
        August 13, 2015 at 8:18 pm

        :)

  3. Greg Briggs
    August 9, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    I'll stick with ghostery for the time being. Informative article, but nothing that will make me change my current set up.

    • Mihir Patkar
      August 11, 2015 at 6:42 pm

      Even after Ghostery's ad-selling scandal? Not doubting your reasoning or trying to get into an argument, genuinely curious.

  4. fcd76218
    August 8, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    I've been using Privacy Badger for a few months now. I also use Ghostery. Privacy Badger shows one tracking cookie for MUO while Ghostery shows ten different ones. Not bad, only 11 trackers on MUO site.

    • Mihir Patkar
      August 11, 2015 at 6:42 pm

      Why, thank you

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