When it comes to privacy on the web, your last line of defense is your web browser. Most web browsers themselves are reasonably secure nowadays. There are more ways to enhance your security and privacy as you browse the web. The main set of tools? Browser extensions.
History of Browser Extensions
A browser extension is a type of add-on tool that you can install. Extensions add features to your web browser in some way, like blocking advertising. The first browser extensions appeared on the scene in 1999, when Internet Explorer first offered them in version 5.
In 2004, Firefox started supporting extensions. Opera followed in 2009, Safari and Chrome added support in 2010. The most popular browser extensions are for security, ad blocking, and accessibility.
Browser extensions, like apps, are easy to install. Each web browser has a “store” or “gallery” of extensions to install. Installation is very simple. Here are the five best extensions for privacy/security for Safari
When you browse the web, your activity is tracked. Companies track your browsing habits and build an advertising profile around you. Web sites have tags and scripts that automatically create cookies that send your information back to the advertisers. A cookie “is a small piece of data sent from a website and stored in the user’s web browser while the user is browsing.” Cookies are not inherently evil, but they can easily be used to track you.
Enter Ghostery. Ghostery is an extension that lets you see which companies are tracking you. You can block this tracking so you can browse the web with more privacy. The database that Ghostery uses has over 2,000 types of trackers that it blocks. Ghostery is available for all browsers, and it is even on Android and iOS.
You can use Ghostery to block trackers all at once, or choose which trackers to block. You can put websites on a whitelist, or block all trackers across every site. Download it here.
Web of Trust
The Web of Trust (WOT) is an extension that tells you which websites are trustworthy. The extension rates a site based on reputation, and you can use it to vote on whether a site is safe or not. WOT even rates websites based on child safety. When you visit the website, you can look at the extension in your browser toolbar. If the icon is green, the site is safe. If the icon is red, the site is dangerous.
Using a search engine like Google with WOT installed, you can see the icon next to each link. You’ll know if a website is safe or not without even clicking on the link. Download it here.
Adblock Plus is an extension that – you guessed it – blocks ads. However, it also blocks trackers, malware, and even video ads. It is open-source and boasts more than 300 million downloads.
Adblock has an option that lets you choose to see unobtrusive ads to support the websites you visit. You can also choose to block everything. Adblock Plus is available for all browers and has an app for Android and iOS. Download it here.
Privacy Cleaner by MyPermissions is a useful tool that helps you protect your personal information online. The tool lets you be aware of the information you share online – in real time.
You control which apps and services have access to your data, and revoke permissions at any time. Similar to the app permissions on Android and iOS, this lets you control permissions on the web. It is available for desktop and mobile devices. Download it here.
TrafficLight is similar to WOT. It is an extension that filters all of your web browsing and blocks malware, phishing and tracking. When you search Google, it offers an icon next to each link that tells you whether the website is safe or not.
It also detects and blocks suspicious links in your Facebook and Twitter feeds. It’s available for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. Download it here.
Let us know what extensions you are using to protect your privacy in the comments below.