With Facebook in a dominant position in hosting a huge portion of the world’s social conversation, we’ve been worried about the incredible power the company has accumulated and the risks that poses to privacy and democratic conversation.
Last week’s news about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica has shown that our worst fears were more or less correct. Now users are looking for answers about what went wrong and what they can do to protect themselves online. One option is to use tools like Privacy Badger to reduce the scope of tracking by Facebook and hundreds of other online tracking companies.
Join EFF and millions of users in the fight to regain your privacy rights!
What’s Going on?
If the news about companies mishandling user data has taught us anything, it is that users care deeply about their privacy but are far from having the control they deserve. Having a choice in what we share—and who we share it with—is paramount to healthy social and civic interaction among individuals and organizations.
Facebook collects data from two sources: first-party data (things you do on facebook.com) and third-party data (including data collected overly or covertly via the "Like" button on other websites, "Login with Facebook," Facebook Messenger chat widgets, and the Atlas advertising network that Facebook owns). Even when you do not consent to share your information within an app or service, your data may be collected and traded by third-party trackers and data brokers.
Facebook is just one example of a much larger problem: online platforms and companies overwhelmingly operate with a surveillance-based business model that relies on gathering as much information on users as possible. This means companies gather data about you not only when you visit their site or service, but also follow you around when you move around the web. These third parties are often shadowy data brokers or advertisers most users have never even heard of.
This is where Privacy Badger comes in. This free extension puts you back in control by spotting and then blocking third-party domains that seem to be tracking your browsing habits.
Tracking Blocking, More than Ad-Blocking
The most visible manifestation of this third-party tracking problem is creepy, uncannily targeted advertising. However, those ads that seem to follow you around the web are just the tip of the iceberg. Many third-parties do not display ads, and instead gather information about you out of your sight.
EFF is attacking this problem from two sides. First, we developed a Do Not Track (DNT) Policy to allow users to signal their preference to not be tracked. Second, we built the Privacy Badger extension to help protect users from non-consensual tracking on the web.
Although Privacy Badger blocks many ads in practice, it is more a privacy tool than an ad blocker. Privacy Badger encourages advertisers to treat users respectfully and anonymously rather than the industry status quo of online tracking. It does this by unblocking content from domains which respect our Do Not Track policy, which states that the participating site will not retain any information about users who have expressed that they do not want to be tracked.
Privacy Badger not only protects users, but also encourages site owners and advertisers to more responsibly respect users' privacy. Privacy Badger is an easy way to add your voice to the growing demand for responsible advertising (that is, advertising that does not track users without their consent) as a viable model for free web content.