Mozilla uses the term “add-ons” to refer to three major forms of modifiers to Firefox:
Firefox now treats unsigned extensions with suspicion.
Watch for Mozilla “permissions” warnings, particularly on older and potentially unmaintained addons. When clicked, the following text appears:
Some addons ask for permission to perform certain functions. Since you're in control of your Firefox, the choice to grant or deny these requests is yours.
Please note this add-on uses legacy technology, which gives it access to all browser functions and data without requesting your permission.
Installing these addons is risky. You should uninstall them if they are currently present.
Like any software, extensions can become unsupported or may contain elements that spy on you or are otherwise insecure.
[I]t's not uncommon for extension makers to sell or lease their user base to shady advertising firms, or in some cases abandon them to outright cybercriminals.
— Brian Krebs
I add these basic Firefox extension to enhance the user experience on most installations (some are available for other browsers):
Web developers will want to check out my listing of useful Firefox extensions for web developers.
Privacy is virtually impossible to recover once it is lost.
Marketing and advertising agencies are doing their best to downplay its importance, but they really don't want you understanding the true value of what you're giving away for free.
[T]here is another reason websites track you — It's because you're worth a lot of money. Websites record your activity so they can sell your information to third party advertising platforms, essentially delivering ads that they hope are relevant to you.
— Check Point blog
As users became more aware of tracking using cookies, these sites have moved to sneakier tactics like browser fingerprinting which can't be detected and is much harder to protect against.
In addition, there has been a huge increase in malware in online advertising and some ad networks have been used to spread ransomware. Ads play havoc with expensive data plans on mobile.
When you use an ad blocker, many sites complain that they can't operate without the advertising revenue.
This is a hollow argument because Google and Facebook control all but a minor portion of online advertising revenue.
If you wish to support a site, subscribe or provide a donation. Any other collection of data is merely an attempt to cull information that can be sold to others.
Look at the 27 trackers found on the Forbes.com website (shown in a legacy version of Ghostery).
This overkill in trackers is one of the factors that cause slow page load times and the loss of privacy.
On the tools front, there are browser plug-ins such as Disconnect Private Browsing, Privacy Badger and Ghostery. Installing any one of these tends to administer a salutary shock, because they instantly reveal (and enable you to block) the startling number of snoopers who are covertly tracking your online activity.
— The Guardian
These extensions are designed to protect your privacy.
Ghostery lets you see who is tracking you online (including information on their privacy policies). It stops beacons, ads, analytics services, page widgets and other third-party page elements from secretly tracking your every move.
Ghostery provides very precise details and gives you a great deal of control. However, it is more difficult to avoid “breaking” pages when your Ghostery settings are set for better privacy.
I tend to install Privacy Badger rather than Ghostery on most client's computers.
HTTPS encrypts your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure.
HTTPS:// Everywhere checks for HTTPS versions of a site and loads that rather than an insecure HTTP version.
Chromium-based browers won't install extensions from outside of Google's official store, including HTTPS:// Everywhere.
ClearURLs protects your privacy by removing the portions of web addresses (URLs) added for marketing and tracking purposes.
This extension will automatically remove tracking elements from URLs to help protect your privacy when browse through the Internet.
You've probably noticed extra content pasted onto the end of web links when you click on an email or when following a link. These include (but aren't limited to) adding the source of the link and its purpose.
Passwords are necessary for any site that requires you to log-in to gain access, but if they are not managed properly, your privacy and security are put at risk.
People have far too many passwords these days to manage without a password manager since everything from your email and social media accounts to utilities and shopping sites require a strong and unique password.
While all web browsers have built-in password managers, these are not secure.
LastPass was my choice for a long time, but the 2022 LastPass breach demonstrated the company was negligent in both security and in warning its users about insecure settings. It also took far too long to warn users that their password vaults had been compromised, issuing a press release just before Christmas when it would likely go unnoticed.
Google is set as the default search engine on Chrome and Firefox. Google never forgets and its dominance is now skewing the meaning of truth on the Web.
My preference for StartPage is simply because I've used it longer than DuckDuckGo has been around.
Open StartPage then look for Add to Firefox or get the extension directly:
Open DuckDuckGo then look for Add DuckDuckGo to Firefox or get the extension directly:
While this page focuses on Firefox extensions, many are also available for other browsers.
Chrome extensions are available in the Chrome Web Store.
These extensions can be used on most Chromium-based browsers including Microsoft Edge and Opera.
Safari extensions are available in the Apple App Store.
Apple made significant changes to Safari in 2018 to fight ad-tracking and digital fingerprinting, starting with Facebook.
One of the methods of tracking is looking at the extensions added to a browser. Apple plans to stop allowing extensions in Safari so that all Safari profiles are similar, defeating extension-based tracking techniques.
A browser extension is a small software module for customizing a web browser.
Extensions can be installed in your browser to add features or simply customize what is there.
Plugins are obsolete addons that once provided support and access to "helper" applications already installed on your computer.
Most browsers have either deprecated or ended support for plugins which have been replaced with native HTML5 technologies that are safer and faster.
Unlike plugins, extensions are not dependent on existing software. Extensions are installed in your browser and are complete on their own.
Extensions can impact your privacy.
Most need some access to your bookmarks, browsing history or other personal information just to be able to what they were installed to do.
Firefox now treats unsigned extensions with suspicion.
Mozilla generally warns you when there is a potential security or privacy issue, and asks whether you want to provide an extension access to private windows.
Panopticlick is an online test that analyzes how well your browser and extensions protect you against online tracking techniques, even if you are using privacy-protective software.
Like any software, be selective in what extensions you install. There is always the potential for poorly-written extensions to cause crashes or slow down your browser.
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Updated: June 23, 2023