All major browsers support extensions. Extensions are pieces of software which enhance or compliment the functionality of a web browser. These extensions offer many useful capabilities such as easy access to your passwords, block malicious content, and clear cookies. There are several privacy enhancing browser extensions out there which help protect your privacy. This list will cover my top 7 privacy extensions.
Privacy Enhancing Browser Extensions
The first one is uBlock Origin. This extension is a must for all internet users. It blocks advertisements as well as malicious scripts. You can also select an annoying element on the screen, such as a cookie warning, and permanently hide it. On the surface, this extension seems quite simple, however, it can be configured to do really useful things such as block websites from scanning your local network among many other things. Some sites detect you’re blocking their ads and will prevent you from visiting their site entirely. Luckily, uBlock Origin allows you to disable blocking on a site to site basis. Blocking ads will also improve the responsiveness of your browsing experience. Blocking ads is an ethical dilemma, in my opinion, so use this at your own discretion. My argument is they should make ads which respect my privacy and the usability of the site rather than the other way around. This extension is available for both Chrome and Firefox.
The next is called Cookie AutoDelete. The title says it all. Once you visit a site, most of them store cookies on your computer for future reference. These cookies can be used to track users across different sites. This extension will clear cookies from a site after you close all open tabs for that site. You might be thinking, but wont I be signed out of sites I’m logged into. By default, yes but you can whitelist sites you do not want cookies to be cleared from. This is also available for both Chrome and Firefox.
Decentraleyes is an interesting one, it stores commonly used libraries on your computer. This prevents the need for your computer to request a library from a content delivery service. The fewer requests to other servers the better. This also has the added benefit of speed. Instead of going all over the internet to pull in libraries, your browser simply needs to talk to the extension stored locally on your computer. This is also available for both Chrome and Firefox.
Privacy Badger is another great privacy enhancing extension. This one learns what’s tracking you and then blocks it. Once installed, clicking on the icon will show all potential trackers on the site and how they are being handled. Again, this extension learns from behavior so it may not block an actual tracker right away. Using the menu, you can force Privacy Badger to block a tracker or allow one if you desire. Overwriting what the extension decides could break websites, though. Use at your own discretion. This is also available for both Chrome and Firefox.
HTTPS Everywhere is so simple yet so useful. This extension will attempt to connect to every website using HTTPS and if it breaks, it uses switches to HTTP instead. That’s it. HTTPS is encrypted from the webserver to your browser while HTTP is not, hence the “S”. Encryption prevents a malicious actor from injecting or modifying content while it’s in transit to you. This is called a man in the middle attack. Privacy Badger and HTTPS Everywhere are both created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. This is also available for both Chrome and Firefox.
Finally there’s Privacy Possum. This extension is far less known compared to the others but that’s not to say it isn’t useful. It sends fake information back to tracking companies which prevents your true information being sent. This one is the most prone to breakage. Thankfully, you can click the icon and disable specific tracking protections or completely disable it per site if it breaks. Unfortunately, this extension is only available for Firefox.
All of these extensions are not for the faint of heart. They have a tendency to break websites and can cause a headache trying to determine which extension is breaking the site. Also keep in mind, it’s impossible to be completely private online. These extensions simply help. They are not the end all be all solution to perfect privacy. Hopefully that didn’t scare you away completely but if you are concerned just use uBlock Origin. It gives you the most drastic result compared to the rest.