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Frequently Asked Questions
- What is Privacy Badger?
- How is Privacy Badger different from Disconnect, Adblock Plus, Ghostery, and other blocking extensions?
- How does Privacy Badger work?
- What is a third party tracker?
- What do the red, yellow and green sliders in the Privacy Badger menu mean?
- Why does Privacy Badger block ads?
- Why doesn't Privacy Badger block all ads?
- What about tracking by the sites I actively visit, like NYTimes.com or Facebook.com?
- Does Privacy Badger contain a "black list" of blocked sites?
- How was the cookie blocking yellowlist created?
- Does Privacy Badger prevent fingerprinting?
- Does Privacy Badger consider every cookie to be a tracking cookie?
- Does Privacy Badger account for a cookie that was used to track me even if I deleted it?
- Does Privacy Badger still work when blocking third-party cookies in the browser?
- Will you be supporting any other browsers besides Chrome, Firefox, Edge and Opera?
- Can I download Privacy Badger outside of the Chrome Web Store?
- Where can I find general information about Privacy Badger that I can use for a piece I'm writing?
- I am an online advertising / tracking company. How do I stop Privacy Badger from blocking me?
- What is the Privacy Badger license? Where is the Privacy Badger source code?
- How can I support Privacy Badger?
- How does Privacy Badger handle social media widgets?
- How do I uninstall/remove Privacy Badger?
- Is Privacy Badger compatible with other extensions, including adblockers?
- Is Privacy Badger compatible with Firefox's built-in content blocking?
- Why does my browser connect to fastly.com IP addresses on startup after installing Privacy Badger?
- Why does Privacy Badger need access to my data for all websites?
- I need help! I found a bug! What do I do now?
How is Privacy Badger different from Disconnect, Adblock Plus, Ghostery, and other blocking extensions?Privacy Badger was born out of our desire to be able to recommend a single extension that would automatically analyze and block any tracker or ad that violated the principle of user consent; which could function well without any settings, knowledge, or configuration by the user; which is produced by an organization that is unambiguously working for its users rather than for advertisers; and which uses algorithmic methods to decide what is and isn’t tracking. Although we like Disconnect, Adblock Plus, Ghostery and similar products, none of them are exactly what we were looking for. In our testing, all of them required some custom configuration to block non-consensual trackers. Several of these extensions have business models that we weren’t entirely comfortable with. And EFF hopes that by developing rigorous algorithmic and policy methods for detecting and preventing non-consensual tracking, we’ll produce a codebase that could in fact be adopted by those other extensions, or by mainstream browsers, to give users maximal control over who does and doesn’t get to know what they do online.
When you view a webpage, that page will often be made up of content from many different sources. (For example, a news webpage might load the actual article from the news company, ads from an ad company, and the comments section from a different company that’s been contracted out to provide that service.) Privacy Badger keeps track of all of this. If as you browse the web, the same source seems to be tracking your browser across different websites, then Privacy Badger springs into action, telling your browser not to load any more content from that source. And when your browser stops loading content from a source, that source can no longer track you. Voila!
At a more technical level, Privacy Badger keeps note of the “third party” domains that embed images, scripts and advertising in the pages you visit. Privacy Badger looks for tracking techniques like uniquely identifying cookies, local storage “supercookies,” first to third party cookie sharing via image pixels, and canvas fingerprinting. If it observes a single third-party host tracking you on three separate sites, Privacy Badger will automatically disallow content from that third-party tracker.
The colors mean the following:
Green means there’s a third party domain, but it hasn’t yet been observed tracking you across multiple sites, so it might be unobjectionable. When you first install Privacy Badger every domain will be in this green state but as you browse, domains will quickly be classified as trackers.
Yellow means that the third party domain appears to be trying to track you, but it is on Privacy Badger’s cookie-blocking “yellowlist” of third party domains that, when analyzed, seemed to be necessary for Web functionality. In that case, Privacy Badger will load content from the domain but will try to screen out third party cookies and referrers from it.
Red means that content from this third party tracker has been completely disallowed.
Privacy Badger analyzes each third party’s behavior over time, and picks what it thinks is the right setting for each domain, but you can adjust the sliders if you wish.
At present, Privacy Badger primarily protects you against tracking by third party sites. As far as privacy protections for “first party” sites (sites that you visit directly), Privacy Badger removes outgoing link click tracking on Facebook, Google and Twitter. We plan on adding more first party privacy protections in the future.
We are doing things in this order because the most scandalous, intrusive and objectionable form of online tracking is that conducted by companies you’ve often never heard of and have no relationship with. First and foremost, Privacy Badger is there to enforce Do Not Track against these domains by providing the technical means to restrict access to their tracking scripts and images. The right policy for whether nytimes.com, facebook.com or google.com can track you when you visit that site – and the technical task of preventing it – is more complicated because often (though not always) tracking is interwoven with the features the site offers, and sometimes (though not always) users may understand that the price of an excellent free tool like Google’s search engine is measured in privacy, not money.
No, unlike other blocking tools like AdBlock Plus, we have not made decisions about which sites to block, but rather about which behavior is objectionable. Domains will only be blocked or screened if the Privacy Badger code inside your browser actually observes the domain collecting unique identifiers after it was sent a Do Not Track message. Privacy Badger does contain a “yellowlist” of some sites that are known to provide essential third party resources; those sites show up as yellow and have their cookies blocked rather than being blocked entirely. This is a compromise with practicality, and in the long term we hope to phase out the yellowlist as these third parties begin to explicitly commit to respecting Do Not Track.
Safari/iOS: Unfortunately, after legal review, the EFF found Apple’s developer agreement unacceptable. Furthermore, Safari seems to lack certain extension capabilities required by Privacy Badger to function properly.
Chrome on Android does not support extensions.
If you would like to help us port Privacy Badger to other platforms, please let us know!https://www.eff.org/files/privacy_badger-chrome.crx downloadable press kit that we’ve put together.
One way is to stop tracking third party users who have turned on the Do Not Track header (i.e., stop collecting cookies, supercookies or fingerprints from them). That will work for new Privacy Badger installs.
Thanks for asking! Individual donations make up about half of EFF’s support, which gives us the freedom to work on user-focused projects. If you want to support the development of Privacy Badger and other projects like it, helping build a more secure Internet ecosystem, you can throw us a few dollars here. Thank you.
If you want to help directly with the project, we appreciate that as well. Please see Privacy Badger’s CONTRIBUTING document for ways to get started.
Social media widgets (such as the Facebook Like button, Twitter Tweet button, or Google +1 button) often track your reading habits. Even if you don’t click them, the social media companies often see exactly which pages you’re seeing the widget on. Privacy Badger includes a feature imported from the ShareMeNot project which is able to replace the widgets with a stand-in version, so that you can still see and click them. You will not be tracked by these replacements unless you explicitly choose to click them. Privacy Badger currently knows how to replace the following widgets if they are observed tracking you: AddThis, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Stumbleupon, and Twitter. (The source code for these replacements is here; pull requests are welcome.)
Note that Privacy Badger will not replace social media widgets unless it has blocked the associated tracker. If you’re seeing real social media widgets, it generally means that Privacy Badger hasn’t detected tracking from that variant of the widget, or that the site you’re looking at has implemented its own version of the widget. To avoid confusion, the replacement widgets are marked with the Privacy Badger badge next to the button. To interact with a replacement widget, simply click on it. Depending on the widget, Privacy Badger will either send you directly to the appropriate sharing page (for example, to post a tweet) or it will enable and load the real social widget (for example, the Facebook Like button, with personalized information about how many of your friends have “liked” the page). In the second case, you will still need to interact with the real widget to “like” or share the page.
Firefox: See the “How to remove extensions and themes” Mozilla Support page.
Chrome: See the “Install and manage extensions” Chrome Web Store help page.
Opera: Click the menu button in the top left of the window, and then click “Extensions” and then “Manage Extensions.” Scroll until you see Privacy Badger, move your mouse over it, and then click the “X” icon in the upper right. Click “OK” to confirm removal. You can then safely close the Extensions tab.
Privacy Badger should be compatible with other extensions.
While there is likely to be overlap between the various advertising/tracker lists and Privacy Badger, Privacy Badger can automatically discover new trackers that list-based blockers don’t know about.
Besides automatic learning, Privacy Badger comes with other advantages like cookie blocking, widget replacement, and Facebook/Google/Twitter link cleaning.
Some extension-specific notes:
Adblock Plus does not block invisible trackers by default.
uBlock Origin is an excellent privacy tool. uBlock Origin and Privacy Badger should work well together. Similar to adblockers, uBlock Origin protects using blacklists. Privacy Badger protects by automatically learning about trackers as you browse, which means Privacy Badger might catch things that uBlock Origin doesn’t know about. Privacy Badger will learn about far fewer trackers when used together with uBlock Origin, but that’s OK.
It’s fine to use Firefox’s native content blocking and Privacy Badger together.
While there is overlap between Firefox’s tracker lists and Privacy Badger’s protections, unlike list-based blockers, Privacy Badger automatically discovers trackers as you browse the Web. This means your Privacy Badger can learn to block tracking that list-based blockers don’t know about.
See also the following FAQ entries:
EFF uses Fastly to host EFF’s Web resources: Fastly is EFF’s CDN. Privacy Badger pings the CDN for the following resources to ensure that the information in them is fresh even if there hasn’t been a new Privacy Badger release in a while:
EFF does not set cookies or retain IP addresses for these queries.
When you install Privacy Badger, your browser warns that Privacy Badger can “access your data for all websites” (in Firefox, or “read and change all your data on the websites you visit” in Chrome). You are right to be alarmed. You should only install extensions made by organizations you trust.
Privacy Badger requires these permissions to do its job of automatically detecting and blocking trackers on all websites you visit. We are not ironically (or unironically) spying on you. For more information, see our Privacy Badger extension permissions explainer.