Chrome and Firefox Ad Blocking and Privacy Addons

For a while I’ve been using AdBlock Plus and Ghostery in both Chrome and Firefox to reduce the amount of shitty ads I see and also reduce the number of “trackers” that I’m exposed to on various web sites. But it’s always seemed like that combination slowed down my browser a bit much and caused weird delays not and then… not to mention the fact that Ghostery is a company that gathers data on its users and sells it back… to advertisers!

So with that in mind I went looking around and came across a list of Web Browser Addons on Prism Break. After a bit of poking around and reading reviews, I settled on uBlock Origin, which is free, open source, and works in both Firefox and Chrome. The authors are also very concerned about performance.

ublock

While I don’t have scientific measurements, I can say that my browser seems to “stall” less often and I’m still not seeing most of the annoying ads that I otherwise would without a good ad blocker.

At some point I make take things another step or two farther. Some of my coworkers are big fans of NoScript for Firefox but I’m actually a bit more interested in Chrome extensions at this point. I “mostly” use Chrome for personal stuff and Firefox for work stuff (there are exceptions of course).

In particular, the EFF’s Privacy Badger is quite good. And I hear Disconnect is useful too.

One are I’m notably lacking in is mobile browser extensions. I mainly use Chrome for mobile (since it does an amazing job of syncing stuff across my devices when needed) but haven’t ventured into seeing what, if any, options are available there.

Which extensions are you particularly fond of for enhancing your browsing experience?

About Jeremy Zawodny

I'm a software engineer and pilot. I work at craigslist by day, hacking on various bits of back-end software and data systems. As a pilot, I fly Glastar N97BM, Just AirCraft SuperSTOL N119AM, Bonanza N200TE, and high performance gliders in the northern California and Nevada area. I'm also the original author of "High Performance MySQL" published by O'Reilly Media. I still speak at conferences and user groups on occasion.
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10 Responses to Chrome and Firefox Ad Blocking and Privacy Addons

  1. Royce Williams says:

    (All of this is Chrome-specific).

    I’m a fan of the already-mentioned uBlock Origin. One non-default option that I enable is “Prevent WebRTC from leaking local IP addresses.”

    To reduce exposure to ad-driven malware, I also hijack hostnames using the local hosts file (on both Windows and non-Windows platforms). The best consolidated system for this that I know of is Steven Black’s (https://github.com/StevenBlack/hosts).

    I use ScriptSafe on Chrome. It’s well-executed, and the workflow for whitelist/blacklist/temporary is similar enough to NoScript’s to be easy to adopt.

    I also like Privacy Badger from EFF. Among other things, you can control which sites send Referer [sic] headers. I used to use a separate extension for this before Privacy Badger came along. I have noticed that Chrome will throw an occasional extension error when both uBlock Origin and Privacy Badger try to manage the same configuration item (referer, etc.). Not sure how to work around this yet.

    I also like Wizmage Image Blocker. It lets you selectively “mute” images (by overlaying them with a pleasant, colorful generic pattern) on a site-by-site basis. I use a “default allow” configuration, but then deny images on sites for which I’m more interested in the text content and find the images distracting (like Twitter).

    To take control of how Facebook behaves, I use Social Fixer. It forces posts to be in chronological order, and you can also mark posts as read (so that you never see them again). You can also suppress display of posts based on keywords.

  2. -dsr- says:

    Two options for mobile:

    – Firefox on Android can use uBlock Origin as well.

    – I use OpenVPN to encrypt everything back to my home network, then use Privoxy on a server there for ad filtering.

  3. Mike says:

    I despise advertising, so topics like this are near and dear to me.

    Configured properly, µBlock Origin can perform the same function as NoScript as well. On the configuration panel you see upon clicking the toolbar icon, there are options to block first-party, third-party, and inline scrips. Those can be turned on by default and you can whitelist or “gray-list” them for individual sites. I usually leave scripting turned on, but I’ll sometimes disable a site’s scripting functions if their scripts do something to break the standard browser user interface or otherwise annoy me.

    Some sites are starting to nag or even exclude browsers that use ad blockers. The best way I’ve found to work around this is to use Reek’s Anti-Adblock Killer (http://reek.github.io/anti-adblock-killer/). It’s a user script (so you’ll have to run Greasemonkey or Tampermonkey) and a list (which can be auto-updated along with other block lists by µBlock Origin – it’s already in their configuration page with all the blocklists and checkboxes; it just doesn’t do anything much without the user script). It works wonderfully.

    On my home network, I run Pi-Hole (https://pi-hole.net/) for network-wide ad blocking. This helps protect devices like my wife’s iPad from ads/malware without having to install anything on the device itself. It’s purely DNS-based, so no proxies, etc. are necessary. It’s not perfect and sometimes breaks things, but it’s usually pretty easy to figure out which site is being blocked that shouldn’t be and add it to the whitelist. At one point, for example, it was blocking a Microsoft host that Windows 10 used for detecting a working internet connection, which was annoying until I figured out what was going on.

    I’ve pretty much switched to Android exclusively for mobile devices, so Firefox with µBlock Origin is my go-to option for mobile browsing. I set up a Firefox sync account and it seems to do a fantastic job of keeping everything synced properly among devices. I set up a Firefox profile on my desktop machine to sync to the same account, too, so if I want easy access to tabs/history from my mobile devices, I have it.

  4. Tim says:

    In addition to uBlock and privacy badger at work, I use pi-hole (https://pi-hole.net/) at home to help prevent ads and malware from affecting any device on my network. It saves quite a bit of fiddling with ad blockers on mobile devices and other things with browsers that don’t care for extensions.

  5. Mike says:

    I wrote a whole post here a couple days ago talking about how I use uBlock Origin, how it can also perform the same function as NoScript, how it works on Firefox for Android and, because of that, I use Firefox exclusively for mobile browsing, and how I also use Pi Hole (as Tim mentioned). And all of that vanished somehow. So, here’s a much shorter post in its stead.

  6. I’ve found running pi-hole (https://antipaucity.com/2016/11/21/results-from-running-pi-hole-for-several-weeks) is more effective than Chrome extensions most of the time – though I keep the extensions around, too

  7. I have used adblock plus and ghostery as well.
    Yes, many a time it’s very irritating seeing annoying ads. Never tried unlock blocker. The functionality you have mentioned about ublock looks very interesting. Definately have to have a try. Thanks for sharing.

    Siddhesh-C Programming

  8. Jussi says:

    I like the uBlock, but why Google prevents installing it on Mobile?

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