Google Chrome offers a host of built-in features aimed at maintaining your privacy, including the abilities to surf the web in Incognito mode or to manage how much data websites can collect on your browsing habits. But third-party Chrome extensions can take your privacy to the next level.
With help from these extensions available in the Chrome Web Store, you can do everything from block ads to get easy access to your passwords. And most of the extensions are available for free.
Flip through this slideshow to find the best options currently available.
AdBlock Plus (ABP) is designed to help you sidestep all the pesky ads you don't want to see on websites across the internet. It comes with preset filter lists so you can quickly block ads in minutes. If you want to filter malware and even social media buttons, that option is baked in. If you're looking for a full ad blocker, however, ABP might not be the best solution – it will still display ads that it considers "nonintrusive advertising."
Credit: Adblock Plus
AdBlocker Ultimate is an open-source alternative to AdBlock Plus that says it isn't beholden to marketers. You'll find an extension that blocks any ad on the page and doesn't allow for certain "good" ads to make it through. You can, however, whitelist ads on sites that you think are worthy of your support.
Credit: AdBlocker Ultimate
LastPass is a handy to have when you want to create tough passwords and keep them readily accessible. It can automatically detect when you need to input credentials, and will populate those fields with the correct information. And if you feel you need a tougher password, LastPass will suggest options for you on the fly. However, you'll need to set upa LastPass account (it's free unless you want to get fancy) and work with it to input your existing account credentials before it'll work properly.
Blur safeguards all kinds of content you might find important, such as passwords, email addresses and credit-card data. It lets you create and store passwords and can sync those credentials between the browser and its iOS app, allowing you to quickly log in across the web. Its tracker-blocking feature stops web trackers from seeing what you're doing. And if you want to hide your credit-card information, Blur can help you with that, too.
Click&Clean might sound extraneous at first blush. All it really does is remove your browsing history and cookies and eliminate all the temporary files on your machine. Many of those functions can already be performed in Chrome. But Click&Clean is designed to do them more quickly and more easily, with a simple click.
If you want to reduce your chances of being tracked by web trackers, Ghostery is a good solution. The free extension works behind the scenes to identify when trackers are lurking. It'll tell you when it's blocking a tracker, then it will source it and present you with information about the companies hoping to track what you do online.
HTTPS Everywhere results from a partnership between the Tor Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital-rights group. The extension will automatically reconfigure each website request from wide-open HTTP to encrypted HTTPS, provided the destination site supports the latter. The move will minimize the chances of information leaking out as you work your way around the web.
Credit: HTTPS Everywhere
Signal Private Messenger
The Signal private-messaging service encrypts your communications with other Signal users. Once you install the extension, you'll need to log in with your phone number and address book. When Signal is fully set up, you'll be able to send and receive text, group and picture messages that are entirely encrypted during transmission from one end to the other. Best of all, it's free.
Credit: Signal Private Messenger
Online criminals often target unsuspecting victims by sending them shortened links. People who assume the links are safe may click on them and find themselves on a malicious web page. With Unshorten.link, you can avoid this trouble. When you click on a shortened link, Unshorten.link will take you to an intermediary page that displays the final destination. If you want to go there, you can. If not, the extension gives you the option of closing the tab or going back a page.
Disconnect is another tracker blocker that aims at finding and exposing so-called "invisible trackers." A handy visual guide lets you see everything tracking you on a website and lets you shut them down. In its own testing, Disconnect's developers found that blocking trackers permit web pages to load 44 percent more quickly.
Privacy Cleaner runs in the background to determine what each website you visit might be up to. If it sees a page trying to get your information and files, you'll get a real-time alert so you can shut down the page before it runs amok. The app can also scan online accounts like Facebook and Twitter to find out which third parties have access to your data and lets you clear those permissions instantly. Better yet, it does this 24/7, giving you all-day protection against trackers.
Credit: Privacy Cleaner
ScriptSafe dramatically improves your control over the browser experience. You can use the extension whitelist and blacklist to stop websites from tracking you and displaying intrusive ads. If you want to block unwanted cookies and other content you find undesirable, ScriptSafe is a great place to start. Ultimately, the developer says the service will speed up your web browsing.
Vanilla Cookie Manager
Cookies are a fact of life when browsing the web, but Vanilla Cookie Manager makes them less of a problem. It automatically removes useless cookies from your browser and gives you the options of clearing all cookies, or just those from third parties.
Credit: Vanilla Cookie Manager
DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials
DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials gives you a variety of privacy features. You can block third-party ad trackers from following you and force HTTPS connections when available. Instead of searching using Google, you can search using DuckDuckGo, which the company says won't track your information. It will even give privacy grades for every site you visit.
Credit: DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials
Privacy Badger is another extension from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It analyzes how you're being tracked by third parties and selectively blocks some that so you can maintain privacy. It also blocks some advertising, but it's not really a full-fledged ad blocker. Instead, it's more of a privacy tool.
Credit: Privacy Badger
Get the BEST of Tom’s Guide daily right in your inbox: Sign up now!
Upgrade your life with the Tom’s Guide newsletter. Subscribe now for a daily dose of the biggest tech news, lifestyle hacks and hottest deals. Elevate your everyday with our curated analysis and be the first to know about cutting-edge gadgets.
Don Reisinger is CEO and founder of D2 Tech Agency. A communications strategist, consultant, and copywriter, Don has also written for many leading technology and business publications including CNET, Fortune Magazine, The New York Times, Forbes, Computerworld, Digital Trends, TechCrunch and Slashgear. He has also written for Tom's Guide for many years, contributing hundreds of articles on everything from phones to games to streaming and smart home.