Privacy Badger: Tom's Mac Software Pick

Sic the Badger on Sites Trying to Track Your Movements on the Web

Privacy Badger
Courtesy of the Electronic Frontier Federation

Don’t you hate having your every move around the web tracked by websites, ad agencies, and online stores? I really am tired of visiting a manufacturer's website to gather information about a product, and then afterward seeing ads for that product everywhere I go on the web.

Enough is enough; it's time to sic a badger on them. In this case, Privacy Badger, a browser plugin that detects and blocks tracking cookies, the predominant method for advertisers to know where you are, and to serve up related ads from sites you have visited.

Pro

  • Blocks most tracking cookies.
  • Won’t interfere with other cookies used for login and session information.
  • Puts some badger-like teeth behind the Do Not Track option in your browser.

Con

  • Currently only works with Chrome and Firefox ( Safari and Opera versions are in the works).
  • Only prevents tracking cookies, and not more advanced tracking systems.

Privacy Badger from the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) is a browser plug-in that prevents tracking cookies from advertisers and third-party tracking services from being able to follow you around the web.

Privacy Badger is designed to enforce the Do Not Track setting in your web browser that causes your browser to issue a request to each website you visit not to track your presence. Unfortunately, Do Not Track is voluntary, and websites and third-party trackers are under no obligation to respect your Do Not Track wishes.

Installing Privacy Badger

Privacy Badger is offered as an add-on app from the Chrome web store for Google’s Chrome web browser, and, as an extension, you can download and install directly from the EFF website.

Once installed, Privacy Badger positions itself as a small icon on the browser’s toolbar, which will display a number indicating how many possible tracking cookies were detected on the currently visited website.

Clicking the badger displays a list of the cookies, along with a three-position slider for each cookie that allows you to manually set the blocking level; green for OK, yellow to block the tracking cookie on the current site, and red to block the domain that issued the cookie from ever putting a cookie in your browser again.

You don’t have to manually set the blocking levels; in fact, that would be quite tedious. Privacy Badger starts by letting all cookies through; that is, provided your other browser cookie settings allow for that. Privacy Browser will respect other settings in your browser. As you move from site to site, the badger keeps an eye on cookies, very quickly figuring out which ones are being used to track you, and then blocking them for you. The process is quite fast; it only took the badger three websites to determine that the advertising network DoubleClick was using tracking cookies and to completely block the domain.​

By the time you've spent a day browsing the web, you'll likely notice many blocked domains in Privacy Badger, as well as fewer and fewer ads appearing on the websites you visit.

Privacy Badger Is Not an Ad Blocker

The badger isn't meant to be an ad blocker, but over time, ads become blocked because they contain tracking cookies that are coming from domains Privacy Badger has blocked.

So, while the badger isn't an ad blocker, it does end up being a major filter of ads with bad habits.

Closing Thoughts

I like Privacy Badger because of the good job it does blocking tracking technology while still allowing a website to continue to work.

Many other cookie or ad blocking apps tend to disrupt websites by blocking all cookies, even those that are legitimately used by the site for non-tracking or advertising reasons.

And of course, you just have to love an app named after a badger, although maybe that’s just me.

Privacy Badger is free.

See other software choices from Tom's Mac Software Picks

Published: 9/26/2015