Firefox Extension Spotlight: Privacy Badger

People can’t be expected to understand all of the technically complex ways their online behavior is tracked by hidden entities. As you casually surf the web, there are countless techniques different third party actors use to secretly track your online movement. So how are we supposed to protect our privacy online if we don’t even understand how the game works?

To help answer this, the good folks at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (a non-profit devoted to defending digital privacy) built Privacy Badger—a browser extension designed to give you highly advanced tracking protection, while requiring you to do nothing more than install it on Firefox. No configuration, no advanced settings, no fuss. Once you have Privacy Badger installed, it automatically scours every website you visit in its relentless hunt for hidden trackers. And when it finds them, blocks them.

How Privacy Badger works

When you visit most websites, it may appear like the entire page is from a single source, but typically there are many components of a page that are delivered by third parties. For instance, the comments section of a news article may be powered by an entirely different company, embedded images might be sourced from elsewhere, or advertising may be delivered from a third-party ad network. If these third-party sources appear to secretly track your browser actions across other websites, Privacy Badger recognizes this behavior and puts a stop to it.

While Privacy Badger isn’t an ad blocker by design, the extension will naturally block any ad it finds to possess sneaky trackers.

Privacy Badger works in a distinctly different way than Firefox’s built-in Enhanced Tracking Protection, so you can use them together as complementary safeguards. Firefox’s ETP utilizes a list method to block known trackers (i.e. it scans websites for trackers on its list), while Privacy Badger employs an algorithmic approach that “discovers trackers as you browse the web,” says Alexei, a senior staff technologist at EFF. “This means Privacy Badger can learn to block trackers that list-based blockers don’t know about. Besides automatic tracker blocking, Privacy Badger removes outgoing link click-tracking on Facebook, Google, and Twitter, with more privacy protections on the way.”

Privacy Badger is part of Firefox’s Recommended Extensions program. It also works great on Firefox for Android.

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