With the topic of privacy coming into the forefront in the past few years, many developers have released browser extensions that promise to protect your privacy. However all of that leads to some very common questions: Which is the best? Do all of them do the same thing? What extensions should I download? Lifehacker put together a guide that takes a look at the most popular browser extensions that aim to protect your online privacy online, so here are my four personal recommendations from that list.
EFF’s Privacy Badger:
Privacy Badger (Chrome/Firefox) launched not too long ago as a project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Since it’s the new kid on the block, it tries to take the best of all of the extensions that came before it. It’s pretty lenient though, and blocks objectionable activities and builds a blocklist as it observes bad behavior, instead of blocking certain sites, cookies, and activities out of the box. This makes it more lightweight, but offers a bit less protection out of the gate—or at least until it learns based on your behavior. You also get an easy-to-control toolbar button that’s absolutely clear about the information recorded about you. The “green/yellow/red” system shows you whether you’re being tracked across sites, and you can toggle the options at any time to lock things down.
Ghostery (Firefox/Chrome/Safari/IE): Much like the others, Ghostery blocks tracking cookies and scripts from running by default. It’ll also show you what it’s blocked, so you can see whether the items it’s blocked are harmless or intrusive. Ghostery’s database is huge, and gives you the power to block all, some, or none of the things that it finds. Unfortunately, Ghostery has its own problems selling data to advertisers, so you may want to steer clear if that doesn’t sit well with you.
Ad Block Plus:
AdBlock Plus (Firefox/Chrome/Safari) blocks banner ads, pop-up ads, rollover ads, and more. It stops you from visiting known malware-hosting domains, and also disables third-party tracking cookies and scripts. Plus, there are a ton of things you can do with it beyond just blocking ads. We think it has the right combination of ease-of-use, on-and-off toggling, whitelisting capabilities, and hands-off management that makes it a tool that anyone can pick up and use. Power users can get their hands dirty with different subscription lists and tweaking the active lists they use, but basic users can enable it and walk away.
HTTPS Everywhere (Firefox/Chrome) is a must-have regardless of what other security tools you opt to use. Once installed, the extension will shunt your connection to SSL whenever possible, and will try to find secure versions of the sites you visit. It’s a great way to protect your browsing without really lifting a finger. Best of all, it just updated to keep you safe on thousands more sites around the web.
Honorable Program: TOR Browser
Tor (Windows/Mac/Linux) encrypts your web traffic and bounces it across a series of other computers, known as relays, to keep their location and browsing private and anonymous. Granted, that anonymity only goes so far: traffic leaving a Tor exit node is unencrypted, so while traffic inside the Tor network is encrypted and anonymous, ultimately your browsing comes out of someone else’s pipe and looks like normal web traffic. Tor is built for anonymity with a nod to security—not the other way around. You can read more about how Tor works here. It’s a great way to stay anonymous on the internet, but don’t mistake it for something like a VPN.