The EFF has released the 1.0 version of Privacy Badger, its browser extension that blocks the hidden trackers used on many sites to follow users around the Web.
The extension has been out in beta form for several months and has drawn praise from privacy advocates for its ability to block trackers automatically. The 1.0 version of the extension has some new features and UI improvements over the beta release, and it also includes support for the new Do Not Track policy released by the EFF recently.
“As you browse the Web, Privacy Badger looks at any third party domains that are loaded on a given site and determines whether or not they appear to be tracking you (e.g. by setting cookies that could be used for tracking, or fingerprinting your browser). If the same third party domain appears to be tracking you on three or more different websites, Privacy Badger will conclude that the third party domain is a tracker and block future connections to it,” Cooper Quintin and Noah Swartz of the EFF said in a blog post.
The extension, which is available for both Chrome and Firefox, does not block all embedded domains out of hand, as that would compromise some of a site’s key functions.
“For certain websites, if Privacy Badger were to block an embedded domain entirely it would break the site’s core functionality. For example, if Privacy Badger were to block ‘licensebuttons.net,’ Creative Commons buttons would no longer load. In these cases Privacy Badger blocks the domain from setting or receiving any cookies or ‘referer’ headers, but allows the embedded content to load,” Quintin and Swartz said.
Privacy Badger is designed to give users more power over who tracks their movements around the Web and how. Right now, even with the DNT flag set in the browser, users don’t have much control of that function because sites aren’t obligated to respect the DNT declaration.
“To be clear, EFF isn’t against websites seeking to build businesses around advertising. More business models means a more vibrant Web. But advertising cannot come at the expense of user privacy and the inviolable principle of consent. Until the online tracking industry changes its ways, the only option for users is to protect themselves by installing tools such as Privacy Badger,” Quintin and Swartz said.