This Badger Protects Privacy

This week, I want to let you know about a free web browser add-on that is designed to assist you in protecting your privacy.

(Before I discuss the application, called Privacy Badger, here is the August edition of your free Self-Reliance Institute Newsletter. Enjoy!)

OK. Back to Privacy Badger.

First, I want to remind you that when I share applications that are designed to protect your privacy, no one application is going to be right for everyone. As with any computer application, you should read the FAQ (frequently asked questions) section at the applications website. For Privacy Badger, the FAQ can be found on the homepage of the website.

With that important reminder, I will tell you that I’ve been testing Privacy Badger on my desktop and laptop computers for three weeks and I’m pleased to find that the application does what it says it will do and is very, very easy to use.

Also, it was created by the good folks at EFF – the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

So what does Privacy Badger do? Let’s turn to those all-important FAQ’s for the answer by reviewing a few of the most important questions and answers. Remember, these are the statements of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the creators of Privacy Badger.

What is Privacy Badger? “Privacy Badger is a browser add-on that stops advertisers and other third-party trackers from secretly tracking where you go and what pages you look at on the web. If an advertiser seems to be tracking you across multiple websites without your permission, Privacy Badger automatically blocks that advertiser from loading any more content in your browser. To the advertiser, it’s like you suddenly disappeared.”

How is Privacy Badger different to Disconnect, Adblock Plus, Ghostery, and other blocking extensions? “Privacy Badger was born out of our desire to be able to recommend a single extension that would automatically analyze and block any tracker or ad that violated the principle of user consent; which could function well without any settings, knowledge or configuration by the user; which is produced by an organization that is unambiguously working for its users rather than for advertisers; and which uses algorithmic methods to decide what is and isn’t tracking. Although we like Disconnect, Adblock Plus, Ghostery and similar products (in fact Privacy Badger is based on the ABP code!), none of them are exactly what we were looking for. In our testing, all of them required some custom configuration to block non-consensual trackers. Several of these extensions have business models that we weren’t entirely comfortable with. And EFF hopes that by developing rigorous algorithmic and policy methods for detecting and preventing non-consensual tracking, we’ll produce a codebase that could in fact be adopted by those other extensions, or by mainstream browsers, to give users maximal control over who does and doesn’t get to know what they do online.”

How does Privacy Badger work? “When you view a webpage, that page will often be made up of content from many different sources. (For example, a news webpage might load the actual article from the news company, ads from an ad company, and the comments section from a different company that’s been contracted out to provide that service.) Privacy Badger keeps track of all of this. If as you browse the web, the same source seems to be tracking your browser across different websites, then Privacy Badger springs into action, telling your browser not to load any more content from that source. And when your browser stops loading content from a source, that source can no longer track you. Voila! At a more technical level, Privacy Badger keeps note of the “third party” domains that embed images, scripts and advertising in the pages you visit. If a third party server appears to be tracking you without permission, by using uniquely identifying cookies to collect a record of the pages you visit across multiple sites, Privacy Badger will automatically disallow content from that third party tracker. In some cases a third-party domain provides some important aspect of a page’s functionality, such as embedded maps, images, or fonts. In those cases Privacy Badger will allow connections to the third party but will screen out its tracking cookies.”

OK. Those are the top three FAQs and they should give you a sense of what Privacy Badger is and how it works. Please take note that currently it does not work with Internet Explorer. It only works with Chrome and Firefox. And, once again, if you’re going to give Privacy Badger a try, read all of the FAQ’s easily located on thehomepage. Also, Privacy Badger is a beta application. So, it’s possible that all the kinks haven’t been worked out.

But, I’ll tell you that it has worked very well for me and has been seamless as an add-on. In other words, it hasn’t locked up my system or caused any functionality problems that I’ve been able to detect. And the program self-adjusts, so it improves at blocking tracking as you use it.

If you’d like to read more about Privacy Badger, check out “EFF’s Snoop-Stopping, Ad-Smashing Privacy Badger Plugin Hits Beta” at PC World.

If you give Privacy Badger a try, let me know what you think by emailing me at [email protected]

Be safe and secure,

Rob Douglas – Former Washington DC Private Detective, Information Security Consultant and Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist

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