Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Browser Extensions

Privacy Extensions | Password Extensions | Search Extensions
Other Browsers | About Extensions

I strongly recommended using Firefox as your primary browser. Most of the information on this page relates to Firefox, but you can check extensions for other browsers.

Get extensions for Firefox.

Firefox Addons

Mozilla uses the term “add-ons” to refer to three major forms of modifiers to Firefox:

  • Extensions add new features to Firefox or modify existing ones.
  • Appearance addons include complete themes which change how Firefox looks and background themes which only modify the title bar and tab strip with a background image.
  • Plugins provide support and access to "helper" applications that are already installed on your computer.

Watch for Obsolete or Insecure Addons

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. Uninstall them if they are currently present.

Extensions Can Become Unsupported

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

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Recommended Extensions

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 Extensions

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. — ZoneAlarm Blog

Most of these third-party advertising companies have NO privacy policy. They take anything they can grab and use it without any social conscience.

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.

Malware in Ads

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.

Ad Blockers Even the Score

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.

An earlier version of Ghostery's “alert bubble” displays a list of 27 trackers found on forbes.com

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

Recommended Privacy Extensions

These extensions are designed to protect your privacy.

Ghostery

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.

  • Ghostery FAQs.
  • Ghostery can also delete Flash and Silverlight cookies on exit.
  • More recent versions of Ghostery use a simpler alert bubble than previous versions (shown on the right).

Privacy Badger

Privacy Badger blocks spying ads and invisible trackers by enforcing the Do Not Track header (you have to have “Do Not Track” enabled in your browser).

See Mozilla's Do Not Track FAQ.

I tend to install Privacy Badger rather than Ghostery on most client's computers.

  • Privacy Badger is more careful about ensuring that pages don't break.
  • It is also easier to manage exceptions.

HTTPS:// Everywhere

HTTPS:// Everywhere checks for HTTPS versions of a site and loads that rather than an insecure HTTP version.

HTTPS encrypts your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure.

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Password Extensions

Passwords are necessary for any site that requires you to log-in to gain access.

If not managed properly, your privacy and security are at risk.

People have too many passwords these days to manage without a password manager.

While web browsers all have built-in password managers, these are not secure.

LastPass Recommended

I liked LastPass because your sensitive data is encrypted locally before upload so even LastPass cannot get access to it.

Firefox LastPass Password Manager is a free secure online password manager which uses your LastPass account.

There are two versions:

Learn more about LastPass.

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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.

Startpage & DuckDuckGo preserve your privacy.

My preference for StartPage is simply because I've used it longer than DuckDuckGo has been around.

StartPage

StartPage provides search results from Google in complete privacy!.

Open StartPage then look for Add to Firefox or get the extension directly:

DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo also provides simple Privacy Simplified

Open DuckDuckGo then look for Add DuckDuckGo to Firefox or get the extension directly:

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Extensions for Other Browsers

While this page focuses on Firefox extensions, many are also available for other browsers.

Chrome Extensions

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

Safari extensions are available in the Apple App Store.

Apple Enhances Safari Privacy

Apple made significant changes to Safari in 2018 to fight ad-tracking and digital fingerprinting, starting with Facebook.

Apple noted that one of the methods of tracking are the identification of the extensions in Safari and plans to stop allowing such extensions so that all Safari profiles are similar, defeating such tracking techniques.

 

About Extensions

A browser extension is a small software module for customizing a web browser. — Wikipedia

Extensions can be installed in your browser to add features or simply customize what is there.

Plugins & Extensions

While both plugins and extensions can add features to browsers, the main difference is how they accomplish that.

Extensions are Self-contained

Unlike plugins, extensions are not dependent on existing software.

Extensions are installed in your browser and complete on their own.

Plugins Provide Access

Plugins provide support and access to "helper" applications that are already installed on your computer.

Examples of plugins are Flash, Java, VLC Player and Apple QuickTime.

Plugins Deprecated

Most browsers have either deprecated or ended support for plugins.

Learn more about plugins….

HTML5 Technologies

Plugins are being replaced with native technologies that are safer and faster.

The transition to HTML5 has opened up the ability for mobile device users to enjoy the rich multimedia experiences once exclusively available on computers.

Privacy Issues

Both plugins and 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 when you provide an extension access to private windows.

Test Your Privacy

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.

Be Selective with Installations

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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Related Resources

Related resources on this site:

or check the resources index.


If these pages helped you,
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RussHarvey.bc.ca/resources/extensions.html
Updated: March 23, 2021