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What you need to know about EFF Privacy Badger

If you're interested in browser extensions like AdBlock or uBlock, or privacy-focused extensions like Ghostery, you might have heard of something called "Privacy Badger".

The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) has released a browser extension for Chrome and FireFox called Privacy Badger. It is an extension designed to block trackers and ads tracking you and your personal information. While other extensions serve a similar purpose (and Privacy Badger's code is rooted in that of AdBlock Plus), Privacy Badger works quite differently and has a distinct purpose. Let's get into it.

How does it work?

Ad blocking extensions typically use what is called a "blacklist" which filters known URLs for various advertisements in order to block them. Privacy Badger works differently in that it doesn't use a blacklist at all. Rather, it operates on its own code to decide which domains collect your personal information.

However, Privacy Badger includes what's called a "yellow list" - sites known to use third-party resources despite Do Not Track requests. These sites have cookies blocked instead of blocked completely, allowing many advertising services (like Google) to continue to work with this extension active.

What you need to know about EFF Privacy Badger

Why should I use it?

Are you bothered by Windows 10 data collection? Want to protect your privacy in your browser? If so, Privacy Badger should be a no-brainer for you. Here are some questions you might have about using it:

  • Can I still whitelist individual sites? – Yes, as you can see in the screenshot above.
  • Is it compatible with other AdBlockers and privacy extensions? – Yes, even if it may be redundant. However, Avast's browser extension is having issues and will attempt to block its installation.
  • Does it support anything other than FireFox and Chrome? – Other browsers are planned for support, but unless you are using FireFox, Chrome or Chromium, no dice.
  • Will this block Facebook (or other site) tracking while I'm on this site? - No. It only blocks third-party resources, i.e. external sites that attempt to obtain information from the one you are using at the time.
  • What exactly is "Do Not Track"? – Do Not Track is a feature on just about every modern browser, and it submits a Do Not Track request to every site you visit. Unfortunately, many advertisers and other groups don't care if you don't want to be tracked, but that's where Privacy Badger comes in. If the site continues to track you after you tell it not to, Privacy Badger steps in.
  • What should I do if this disrupts some sites? – Due to how Privacy Badger works, it may be considered an ad blocker on some sites. Since some websites do not work properly with an ad blocker enabled, all you have to do is disable Privacy Badger for that particular site and then reload the page.

Anything else?

That's pretty much all the important information, actually. Privacy Badger is still in development, so be sure to report any bugs you find while using it. Developers generally appreciate user feedback, especially if it helps them build a better app/extension/product. Personally, I recommend giving Privacy Badger a try, even if you don't care about your privacy, then opening it up on your favorite websites to see how many trackers are blocked at any given time. It's a very interesting and informative experience, although it only increases the paranoia if you're a privacy freak like some of us.