Skip to main content

Browser Plugin 'Privacy Badger' Badgers Online Trackers

Online companies are absolutely desperate to track your every movement online and sell the information to intrusive advertisers. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is not thrilled about this, and has given users a way to control their online privacy: the Privacy Badger plugin for Firefox and Chrome.

Privacy Badger is a simple add-on that monitors tracking cookies that target you on every website you visit. If you visit Tom's Guide, for example, Privacy Badger knows that Tom's Guide uses cookies to keep track of login information, and will ignore those. If any third-party advertisers attempt to leverage your personal information, however, it will notify you and give you the option to block it.

MORE: 13 Security and Privacy Tips for the Truly Paranoid

The EFF points out that Privacy Badger targets only tracking cookies, not all third-party activity. This is helpful for users, as third parties on websites often provide useful features, such as fonts, embedded videos or animated menus. The plugin displays a green emblem for safe third-party programs, a yellow emblem for trackers that may be intrusive and a red emblem for tracking that Privacy Badger has disallowed entirely.

Additionally, the EFF has extended an olive branch to advertisers. If Privacy Badger finds a third-party tracker intrusive enough to block, the company can get its service unblocked by mending its ways. Privacy Badger will not block any advertisers that respects up-front Do Not Track requests from users.

That said, it's unlikely that the EFF's incentive will mean much to most advertisers. The vast majority of Web users are not aware that they are constantly being monitored, nor of programs like Privacy Badger that protect their identities.

In terms of functionality, Privacy Badger is similar to Ghostery, but not quite as robust. Whereas the Ghostery plugin identifies every third-party service on a website and gives you the opportunity to block them, Privacy Badger targets only the most odious privacy invaders. The two programs can work in tandem, but you probably need only one, depending on whether you want something simple or something comprehensive.

Users can download Privacy Badger at the EFF's website, and take a proactive step toward keeping their online identities to themselves.

Follow Marshall Honorof @marshallhonorofand on Google+. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

  • Marcus52
    EFF is a great organization, but I'd rather see them get behind NoScript than create another program.

    And while they're at trying to protect us from tracking - how about they go to the source of the security problem? We wouldn't have to be so concerned about our privacy being violated by private organizations (as well as the government spies) if we had laws that prevented web browsers from being made to support tracking instead of block it.
    Reply
  • Haravikk
    EFF is a great organization, but I'd rather see them get behind NoScript than create another program.
    I'm not sure the two really fulfil the same goals exactly, just like Privacy Badger and AdBlock aren't the same thing either (though AdBlock could certainly benefit from Privacy Badger style restrictions, rather than just flat blocking of all ads).

    Still, it's great to see someone actually attempting to introduce consequences for failing to respect Do Not Track, as it's really something that should have been part of the proposal to begin with. While the plugin seems fine, I'd really like to see browsers implementing this directly.

    For example, Safari (currently unsupported anyway) now has the ability to stop animations, movies etc. that don't appear to be important, which generally works quite well to prevent disruptive advertising. Using the same detection they could also determine which content should or should not be allowed to track the user, and remove the content entirely if it keeps trying to even though DNT is enabled.
    Reply
  • Jon Mc
    Disconnect seems to actively block sites that at this time need to be manually blocked in Privacy Badger. Also Do Not Disturb seems to block sites generated by the website itself.
    Reply
  • koss64
    You do know that the internet economy as we know it is based on advertising right? A part of that advertising is tracking what you do on websites and where you go within those websites,its used in data analysis which form the metrics that compnies need in order to see if a marketing campaign is working so in the short term it can pay staff etc. You take that out and you have pay for special access looking like a very lucrative market. I'm not saying that all tracking is good mind you because some of the things being done with are just downright nasty, but to outlaw the entire practice is going to throw the baby out with the bath water.
    Reply
  • Tunie
    It is not paranoia that drives my desire for privacy, it is the fundamental creepiness and annoyance of being tracked, and secondly, seeing ridiculous content featured based upon random surfing that has little to do with my life. None of the intelligent content I search is featured, of course, only the most banal and stupid. I don't want that crap associated with my data trail but I'm not interested in giving up my freedom to search and browse for relaxation and entertainment. Privacy IS a fundamental human birthright.
    Reply