This week I invited Thorin Klosowski, an editor at Wirecutter, to give us some advice on our tracks online.
Everything you do online – from browsing to shopping to using social media – is tracked, usually behavioral data or advertising. But browser extensions are simple, often free add-ons that you can use to slow down or break this type of crawl without completely ruining your Internet experience. .
Privacy almost always comes at the cost of usability. Browser extensions can sometimes strangely render web pages text, prevent embedded images or tweets from loading on the page, or remove small social media buttons that make it easier to share articles. But in return for the occasional headache, companies will have a harder time keeping track of what you do online. Not all browsers offer exactly the same extensions, but Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are the two most popular browsers and the ones I focus on here.
Ad Blocker: uBlock Origin
Chrome / Firefox
Ad Blocker is a browser extension that blocks intrusion pop-ups, intrusion trackers, and malicious ads. You have a ton of options for different ad blockers, but I’ve always found that uBlock Origin contains no system resources (an assumption others confirmed), nor does it block so much that it spoils the dad. site functionality and functionality. I also like how easy it is to disable uBlock Origin case by case, to allow ads on non-annoying websites or to temporarily enable uBlock features that tend to break, like the comments section.
Alternatives: I’ve noticed that AdBlock, AdBlock Plus, and Ghostery all have a steep learning curve or poor performance, but some people prefer them over uBlock Origin. If you want to take ad blockers seriously and kill all ads from every device on your home network, you can build a small computer dedicated to that using Pi-hole software.
Tracking Blocker: Privacy Badger
Chrome / Firefox
Along with uBlock Origin consider running Privacy Badger, an extension designed to block trackers, scripts that tend to record your visits, and build profiles on top the web pages you view. If you want to learn more about these types of trackers, enter a website’s address into The Markup’s Blacklight tool, which lists the tracking tools it finds on a website and states. details what the tracking company does.
Alternatives: If you want to learn more about trackers on the websites you visit, Disconnect can provide more insight, but it can be a bit overwhelming. Firefox has a built-in feature (provided by Disconnect) for blocking trackers, but some are bypassed, so we still recommend an add-on.
Secure connection: HTTPS anywhere
Chrome / Firefox
See a little padlock icon in your browser’s URL bar? That suggests that the site uses HTTPS, a more secure version of HTTP (just how your web browser and websites send information back and forth). HTTPS Everywhere forces your browser to go to a website’s secure URL, even if you click a link that doesn’t lead you there. According to Let’s Encrypt, the vast majority of US websites today use HTTPS, but for the time being, I still recommend using HTTPS Everywhere as a crash safety measure (though this subject to change).
Login protection: Use a password manager
A password manager is the first step in protecting your online accounts. Password managers are typically accessed through a browser extension that creates, stores, and fills in your passwords as you browse the internet. This makes logging into websites easier, faster, and more secure. We like 1Password and Bitwarden. Most browsers can also save and fill passwords without the need for a dedicated password manager, but they generally don’t work on all operating systems (including your phone) or offer Tool to create or share passwords securely. A dedicated password manager is better at alerting you to weak or compromised passwords.