In light of increased concerns over Internet privacy and trackers harvesting personal information, I thought I’d share a few extensions I’ve been using to minimize third-party attempts to log my browsing activities. I’m personally not a very paranoid person, and truth be told, some of what is being spread sounds a lot like FUD to me (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt). Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean there aren’t legitimate concerns, and there’s nothing wrong with trying a few precautionary measures. Almost all of these extensions are multi-browser and multi-platform, but I’m only linking to the Chrome and Firefox download pages.
Ghostery (Download: Chrome | Firefox)
After you install, Ghostery guides you through a wizard to set up your preferences, letting you choose which trackers to block. I selected everything but Google Widgets so that iGoogle would load properly. If you notice other sites not working normally, you might want to hunt it down in the block list and uncheck it and/or add that particular site to the whitelist so that Ghostery doesn’t disable any functions when you visit it. I recommend that you uncheck the “Show Alert Bubble” in your settings (it’s under “General Options” in Chrome and “Advanced” in Firefox). At first it was kind of neat to see the pop-up list of services being blocked on each page, but it gets tiring and obtrusive pretty quickly. I also unchecked the “Show Ghostery in Navigation Bar” to clean up the interface. Now the add-on does its work invisibly, and I don’t have to think about it.
Do Not Track Plus (Download: Chrome | Firefox)
More or less does the same thing as Ghostery though the settings/features aren’t quite as extensive as Ghostery’s. I have it installed alongside Ghostery because there don’t seem to be any conflicts I’m aware of, and it’s good to have “back-up.”
Here are some extensions that I don’t use. I feel the two above are enough and using too many extensions can slow your browser and system down, but if you want maybe a little more safety, then it might be good to look into these:
Keep My Opt-Outs (Download: Chrome)
Created by Google to prevent ads from personalizing content based on your browsing data.
Disconnect (Download: Chrome | Firefox)
Blocks third-party tracking from the likes of major sites like Facebook, Yahoo, and others.
Click & Clean (Download: Chrome | Firefox)
This add-on serves a different purpose than the previous ones. It doesn’t block trackers, but it can erase your browsing history, Flash content, temporary files, and cookies, as well as scan your computer for malware, and a bunch of other things as well. It reminds me of CCleaner, and a lot of these functions already exist in your browser, but I suppose C&C makes it a little easier and might be more thorough. Note that the Chrome version is available only for Windows. Chrome Linux and Mac users are advised by the developer to install their other extension, History Cleaner, but from what I can tell, it doesn’t do anything that you can’t already do in your browser.
Final word: I strongly advise that after you install one or more of these add-ons that you delete all your cookies, which is the primary method by which trackers track you. This would mean that you would be logged out of all your sites and would therefore have to reenter all username/password info, but this is worth it to be on the safe side. (You do have all your login info memorized or locked away in an underground vault, right?) Be sure to clear your cache often because it deletes temporary files as well as frees up space on your hard drive. You’d be amazed by how many hundreds of megabytes you could recover.