Last month, I hinted that if a release candidate for Firefox 4 came out, I would be reviewing plug-ins on it. Well, the release candidate hasn’t come out, but I figured that a GeekDad reader like you might have his family on a beta browser release anyway. Is it practical? No. But what kind of geek would you be if your stuff didn’t break easily? So here you are: plug-ins for Firefox 4 Beta.
[This is a guest post from Cyrus Nemati, web producer at the Center for Democracy & Technology]
A constant theme in online privacy in general is that when you’re visiting a website, you’re really visiting several websites. Any given website can be pulling in content from several other sites. You can be judicious about what websites you visit, and that method can serve you very wellā as long as those websites are all just as picky as you are about the company they keep. You make one mistake, and just like that, you’ve either got a horrible (computer) infection, or someone knows a lot more about you than you’d like them to. Fortunately, we’ve got some protection.
Redirect Remover protects your family from common redirect commands that websites can give, such as those you might encounter when visiting a page on a website that has been moved. This ensures that whenever you visit a website, you’re guaranteed to stay on that website. Not only will this give you exactly the browsing experience you expect, but it will also prevent redirects to phishing websites that grab personal information. A curious child can follow some very dangerous roads on the Internet, but Redirect Remover puts down roadblocks to keep them on the right track.
To start with, Redirect Remover comes with pre-configured whitelists that determine what sites should be allowed to redirect users. You will probably want to look through these to make sure you won’t be allowing any websites you find untrustworthy. Some protocols and websites on the whitelist are sensible, but others are rather dubious, such as “ed2k://,” which is the protocol for eDonkey, a P2P file-sharing program. Why you would want to give eDonkey links the ability to redirect you to other sites is completely beyond me, as there are few lawful or non-pornographic reasons to do so.
Redirect Remover is a simple tool that does what it claims to do. Used properly, it will absolutely prevent any redirects from any site. It has to lose a point for the baffling whitelist, though.
Ease of Use
Redirect Remover isn’t exactly “plug and play” due to the aforementioned whitelist issue, but once you have the list set up properly, you never have to look at the plug-in again. You don’t even need to revisit the whitelist to add a website you’re currently viewing; you need only click a button in your browser.
I don’t think I’ve seen another plug-in that addresses this common web problem. Yay!
PrivacyChoice’s Trackerblock is an alternative to robust anti-tracking tools that demand an active role from the user. Most user-empowerment tools put control into the hands of the user – but what if the user doesn’t know what to do with that control? To achieve total online privacy these days, you need to run a bunch of plug-ins through proxies that will really destroy your browsing experience. You’re not just blocking off the bad elements of the web, but the good ones as well. You can’t be expected to know every single company that engages in poor practices – and if you do, you’ve got enough trouble finding a decent tinfoil hat that fits without chafing. Tinfoil hats these days! Here’s where PrivacyChoice Trackerblock comes in.
PrivacyChoice comes to the rescue with Trackerblock, an extension of the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI), which is a self-regulatory organization to keep online tracking practices within acceptable guidelines. There are positive uses for online tracking, as any webmaster (I’m bringing the term back) will tell you. In order to preserve a positive online tracking landscape, some advertisers recognize that they should be on their best behavior. PrivacyChoice Trackerblock gives you the choice of blocking all 150 of the tracking companies they have listed, or blocking all except for the companies that choose to participate in the Network Advertising Initiative. You can read about the NAI for yourself to decide whether or not you’d like these companies to be able to track you.
The Network Advertising Initiative is a good idea, and consumer privacy law would make this sort of regulation mandatory. As you can see from PrivacyChoice’s list, not all companies are participating in the NAI. Furthermore, the capacity of the NAI to regulate tracking practices is yet unproven. In the end, it’s you who must be the steward of your browsing and your children’s browsing.
Trackerblock’s draw is that it allows you to let another party make privacy choices for you. This would be a bigger plus if PrivacyChoice offered more information on each individual tracker that it’s capable of blocking, but unfortunately, you’ll have to do the research yourself. Once a tracker is blocked, however, Trackerblock is very comprehensive, protecting you not only from tracking cookies, but also from tough-to-detect flash cookies.
Ease of Use
Simple checkmarking is all Trackerblock needs to start blocking tracking cookies, and special buttons are provided for mass blocking. Easy as pie!
I wouldn’t really call Trackerblock a unique product, but the NAI integration makes it worth checking out. If the NAI is true to its goals, Trackerblock should prove very useful.
There you have it: two more weapons to use in your fight to protect your family’s privacy. If you’ve been following the Plug-ins for Privacy series so far, you can probably call yourself a Privacy Ninja now, especially if you like for people to roll their eyes at you. People whose kids have no privacy, that is.