Placing Trust in a Badger

Privacy Badger logoThe good people at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (who previously brought us the excellent HTTPS Everywhere add-on) have recently rolled out their Privacy Badger. The Badger blocks tracking ads, cookies, and other unwelcome spying pests, and is compatible with Firefox and Chrome. In this regard, it is reminiscent of more traditional blockers, such as Ghostery, Adblock Plus, and Disconnect (previously mentioned here and here).

Privacy Badger does have some key and incredibly smart differences, though:

  • Handles all tracking blocking utility through a single extension
  • Requires no configuration by the user
  • Created by a highly regarded non-profit organization that unambiguously works to defend users’ digital rights, not for advertisers’ research or revenue
  • Uses rigorous algorithmic and policy methods for detecting and preventing non-consensual tracking, instead of relying on blacklists that require continuous updating

Among other things, this means that Privacy Badger won’t block all ads, just those that engage in tracking. This simultaneously encourages ethical online advertising behavior, while allowing sites with non-tracking advertisements to continue to earn revenue from those wishing to browse without being spied upon.

This Badger is also canny enough to recognize when 3rd party content is both essential for a website’s functionality and an intrusive bug recording your every move. In these instances, Privacy Badger is ingeniously designed to allow the functionality while blocking the tracking.

While the Badger is in Beta now, it has been quite well behaved in my experience, doing its job as expected without any detriment to browser performance. It should be noted that it does not yet protect against browser fingerprinting, nor does it tackle 1st party tracking (focusing instead on the far nastier problem of 3rd party tracking). In not too long a time, I anticipate using Privacy Badger alone on machines where I’ve been running personally tailored versions of Adblock Plus and Ghostery in tandem. That being said, you may wish to rely on a more tested solution until it clears the Beta hurdle. If you’ve not been using an ad or tracking blocker at all, it’s high time you started! Click through to download and read more about the Privacy Badger.

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