Internet browsers are our key to accessing the Internet. But when choosing an Internet browser, it’s important to consider the level of privacy that the browser will offer you as a user. While not all browsers are created equal, browser extensions can help level the playing field by allowing users to customize their browsers with plugins.
There are so many browser extensions concerned with privacy that it’s easy to set yourself up for a safe and secure browsing experience. In this article, we’ll share some of the best browser extensions for every privacy concern.
How do browser extensions work?
Browser extensions are tiny pieces of software that change a user’s experience on a website or with information from a website. Browser extensions apply filters, block content, and add features all to customize a user’s Internet experience.
To use a web browser extension, the user downloads it onto their browser—either from a third party software company or from the browser itself—and the extension will start to perform its designated tasks within the browser. They can be used for increased privacy, ad blocking, finding the best online shopping deals, and everything in between.
The browsers suggested below can be used on almost every major browser, but check with your own browser by getting an open tab and going to your browser's home page. You should be able to find out if it can support extensions or not; most browsers do.
Best privacy-focused browser extensions
Focuses on: stopping hidden trackers, ad blocking, monitoring cookies
Privacy Badger is a browser extension that prevents third-party trackers from collecting information about users and their online activity. According to Privacy Badger’s website, what makes this extension unique is that it learns and recognizes trackers on its own versus working from a pre-established list of hidden trackers. This means that the extension is able to block a lot more and protect more securely against hidden threats.
Privacy Badger does not specifically block ads. However, by blocking hidden trackers, the extension subsequently does cut out a lot of unnecessary and unsafe advertisements.
Focuses on: ad blocking, pop-up blocking, faster connections
uBlock is an ad blocker extension that aims to block ads and video ads, trackers, and pop-ups. It helps to prevent against malware, specifically malware that is hidden in ads. uBlock works to stay current on online advertising formats and techniques in order to keep on top of potential pop-ups and ads. By removing ads and pop-ups, uBlock is able to give your computer the fastest possible connection speed.
Focuses on: information encryption, website security
HTTPS Everywhere encrypts a user’s communication with the websites they visit. While many websites offer some sort of encryption, it isn’t simple to use; the goal of HTTPS Everywhere is to rewrite the requests to these questionable sites so that it is in HTTPS rather than HTTP, which is unencrypted and less safe.
The focus of HTTPS Everywhere isn’t to conceal your information, but it will keep your connections more secure. When used in conjunction with another extension that does conceal your private information, HTTPS Everywhere is an even better tool.
Focuses on: ad blocking, tracker blocking, faster connection speeds
Ghostery’s main goal is to block ads and hidden trackers. Ghostery also anonymizes data to help keep you and your information even more protected from trackers. These lead to enhanced browsing speeds, since your browser isn’t stopped up by invisible trackers or pop-up ads.
Ghostery also features customizable blocking, which lets users view, block, and unblock specific trackers for specific websites. They provide a list of noted trackers that users can review at any point.
This extension currently works on Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Yandex, Safari, Microsoft Edge Browser, and Internet Explorer.
Be wary of malicious extensions
Although the purpose of browser extensions is to improve your Internet experience, malicious browser extensions will do the opposite. As with any download, the user always runs the risk of downloading a virus or bug. It’s critical to research any browser extension thoroughly before you download it to ensure that the extension is legitimate and safe. Even just putting the name of the extension in your address bar for a search will help you determine if the extension developers have the extension up-to-date, which makes it safer. Look into the permissions that a browser extension asks for before you allow the download.