Protecting your privacy by blocking online trackers

You don’t need to be particularly interested in technology or privacy to know that a lot of companies are following you around as you browse the web. There’s a huge market for personal information which is mostly used to serve targeted ads. Lots of information is available online that goes into great detail on how tracking works and why it’s really bad for everybodies privacy. Especially Julia Angwin’s book Dragnet Nation is recommended reading if you want to dive deeper into this topic.

There’s a number of tools out there that help you to defend your online privacy. I’ve been using a browser plugin called Disconnect for over a year, it’s developed by two former Google employees and unlike others, it doesn’t impact websites much – if anything, it makes them nicer by removing a lot of malicious advertisement.

Two weeks back, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has released the first stable version of their alternative Privacy Badger. Functionally it’s much the same as Disconnect’s browser extension. It works differently, though: While Disconnect relies on a curated list of trackers, Privacy Badger blocks trackers more dynamically by examining their behaviour and blocking them, when it realizes that you are being tracked by a third party. You can manually adjust its behaviour by blocking and unblocking specific third parties. Privacy Badger also sets your browser to send the “Do-Not-Track” HTTP header, given websites the chance to respect your desire not to be tracked.

The good folks of the EFF presented their work in a short talk at the Chaos Communication Camp last week, check it out!