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One of the most popular sections on the Google Chrome Store is its Productivity extensions. With so much juggling to do in our lives, anything that speeds up our everyday tasks is welcome.
But did you know that some productivity Chrome extensions can be used to boost your security and privacy? Here are just a few that you should consider adding to your browsing experience.
1. Social Fixer for Facebook
Love it or hate it, Facebook is the most widely-used social network in the world. It’s pretty rare to find someone who isn’t using it (although younger generations are increasingly turning to Snapchat).
Nonetheless, it’s far from perfect. We have loads of gripes about it. Its algorithms leave a lot to be desired. At least MySpace felt somewhat customizable.
That’s where Social Fixer for Facebook comes in. This lets you tweak your newsfeed, letting you filter out sponsored posts, any statuses you’ve already seen, and unnecessary panels at either side of your main feed. It’s one of the best Chrome extensions for people who use Facebook.
This has two additional uses as a privacy tool.
The first is its Stealth Mode. You’re gazing through someone’s profile, going back years—merely to see what they’ve been up to, and relive old memories. Then you mistakenly click “like” on a status from 2009. Panic sets in. You picture yourself being arrested for stalking, standing in the dock and pleading that you’re not guilty; you were just curious.
That’s a big worry, right?
Stealth Mode hides the ability to “like”, share, and comment on statuses, so you can browse safe in the knowledge that you won’t accidentally alert people that you’re checking out their posts. Perfect.
Additionally, you might find a post that you feel the need to share through Twitter, Reddit, or elsewhere. But if you screenshot it, you’re also sharing personal details. Social Fixer’s “anonymize” function hides friends’ names, profile pictures, and more with a single click. You never have to worry about compromising your nearest and dearest again!
Download: Social Fixer for Facebook
2. Tab Wrangler
It’s easy to go overboard with tabs. You probably have numerous links open across different tabs right now.
Some users have a serious addiction, opening up hundreds of tabs and boasting that their performance isn’t slowed down at all. It’s pointless, of course: there’s no way you can pay good enough attention to that many tabs to warrant keeping so many open, and they do affect your CPU. Once going above a set number (between 5 and 10 for the average user), just use your browsing history to keep track of useful pages.
Or you can use Tab Wrangler. This simply closes tabs after a set period of time of inactivity. It then lists everything it’s closed, so you can come back to them for reference. You can reopen them from here.
You can change how many tabs it allows you to have open before activating, and how long a page has to be idle before being closed.
The only problem is, if you’re filling out a form, leave it for a while, and the extension closes it, data won’t be saved. (Fortunately, it won’t close anything you have pinned, so we recommend doing that is you are midway through inputting private data.) Nonetheless, this is a handy add-on in a sea of tab-related extensions.
It’s even handier considering the amount of malicious pop-ups populating the internet. If a page is running in the background that you don’t know about, Tab Wrangler will automatically shut it after some time because you’re not using it. You don’t even have to click anything on that tab; this can be especially troublesome if a pop-up displays a fake “x” button.
Then you can retrospectively check what’s been closed, spot anything you’re suspicious of, and maybe do a bit of investigation to find which site could be infected.
Download: Tab Wrangler
3. Filter by WOT [No Longer Available]
You should’ve heard about Web of Trust (WOT), even if you’ve been put off by recent controversies over its privacy policies.
WOT has been downloaded some 140 million times, and that community supports itself by letting each other know which sites are safe. If you attempt to go on a site that’s riddled with malware or is a scam, an alert will come up. You can ignore that warning and proceed regardless; or it gives you the option of returning to the search engine.
Color-coded rankings even appear alongside Google search results, meaning you can tell if a site is a danger to your device without going on it at all. It’s a great add-on for the security-conscious.
Filter by WOT is naturally by the same developers, but allows you to block content you don’t want to see. That might be entire sites, including distractions like Buzzfeed; keywords, so you never have to worry about Game of Thrones spoilers again; or subdomains (i.e. political sections if it’s all getting too much to handle right now).
These are all useful for your productivity, of course, but WOT is founded on principles to keep you safe. So yes, you can block Twitter if it’s getting in the way of coursework. But similarly, you can block adult content, so your kids can’t access gambling sites etc.
Equally, let’s say that a fellow PC user goes on a site that’s been sold on, and that site now serves malicious adverts. Don’t risk anyone accidentally going on it as a habit; just block it. And don’t forget to explain why. Otherwise, people are going to get very
But Are These Extensions Safe?
You do have to be wary when it comes to extensions. They’re created by third-parties to fix issues that browsers don’t otherwise address. But they’re in your toolbar and have the potential to monitor everything. In fact, if you use security add-ons like LastPass, they manage your passwords for you.
You have to be sure you’re downloading a secure extension that looks after your data.
Google screens everything that goes into its App Store, so anything out-and-out malicious doesn’t make the cut. It’s not ideal: sometimes, Google makes mistakes, and something dodgy slips through.
How can you tell what is good and what is worth avoiding? Look at reviews. Check for reputability. Look for recommendations, such as our own guide to the best Chrome extensions!
What Have We Missed?
It’s best not to clutter up your browser with too many add-ons. Still, there’s a balance to be found, and aside from these productivity extensions, there are loads of security ones available.
What are your favorite productivity Chrome extensions? And do you feel like they make you more secure? Share your thoughts in the comments below!