AddThis, the White House, and Privacy Badger

White House Website Includes Unique Non-Cookie Tracker, Conflicts With Privacy Policy - Peter Eckersley - Electronic Frontier Foundation

The company AddThis has been playing around with a replacement for cookies. The idea is that each computer handles browser traffic slightly different, so give it a pen and paper and let it draw a visualization of what that looks like. A cool idea, but it essentially means AddThis is fingerprinting all computers for tracking purposes. Not a good thing for privacy and apparently the White House dot gov is one of many sites running this new fangled voodoo from AddThis. There is a way to mitigate this though and it comes in the way of EFF’s recently released browser extension, Privacy Badger.

The extension is easy install. Simply, go to this site and click on the link for your browser. Accept the installation of the extension. Once the extension has been installed a badger icon will appear in the top right corner of the browser and a page will open explaining what the different indicators mean.

  • Green means you’re not being tracked.
  • Yellow means the site is tracking you, but on a whitelist. The cookie in question may be needed to view the page properly.
  • Red means the content has been disallowed.

Clicking on the extension icon will open up a panel with the list of domains that are being either blocked or allowed. You can change setting for the domain by sliding the bar left or right.

The extension is really easy to install and use and improves your privacy while surfing the internet. I’ve been using it for a little while now and I haven’t noticed any significant performance issues. I have noticed that I am no longer creeped out by ads that display service or equipment from email conversations with other people.

Another extension I highly recommend is NoScript for Firefox. According to Bruce Schneier, it appears that extension will block most of this stuff as well. NoScript requires a little more involvement, as it blocks everything by default and you have to decide what to allow, but it is one of the easiest things you can do to improve your own personal security as you browse the internet.

If you have anything further to add or other suggestions for safe browsing, leave a comment below.