The 3 best browser extensions to protect your privacy (updated for 2017)

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When it comes to your privacy, there’s no such thing as being “too prepared.” That’s why ExpressVPN compiled a list of our favorite extensions for boosting your browser’s privacy and security. The best part? They’re all FREE!

Ad Blockers

Take control of your browsing experience with a good ad blocker. Ad blockers prevent pesky popups and widgets from sending your data to advertisers. While the ad-blocker debate rages on, we believe you have the right to decide which ads to block and which ads to allow. Ad blockers let you do just that!

Our #1 Choice: uBlock Origin

Install from Chrome web store
Install as Add-on to Firefox
Install as Add-on to Opera

Ublock-Origin

With dozens of free ad blockers out there, what makes uBlock Origin so special? For starters, it uses less memory than the others, so it doesn’t slow down your browsing experience.

ublock in action
uBlock Origin is our top pick when it comes to ad blockers

It’s also been found to effectively block more ads than any other ad blocker. uBlock Origin also lets you create personalized lists, giving you more control over what ads to block and what ads to allow.

Here’s an example of average load times on Chrome using various ad blockers.
ad blockers speed test

As you can see, uBlock Origin is the clear winner.

Runner-up: Adblock Plus

Install from Chrome web store
Install as Add-on to Firefox
Install as Add-on to Opera

Oh, Adblock Plus, how we used to love thee.

adblock plus

Until recently, Adblock Plus was our go-to ad blocker. While it takes up a bit more space than uBlock Origin, it performed just as well.

adblock plus in action
Adblock Plus is great at blocking ads and scripts…for a price

Unfortunately, Adblock Plus has recently come under fire for letting certain ads pass in exchange for money. Cue the sad trombone music. What a letdown.

Jeff-doesnt-like

It goes without saying that uBlock Origin wins out in this category.

Anti-Tracking Extensions

Anti-tracking extensions protect your online anonymity by preventing your browsing from being tracked.

Many advertisers use cookies to track where you go and what you do on the Web—typically without your consent. Unlike ad blockers, anti-tracking extensions block cookies and protect you from tracking and malvertising. They help keep you invisible in the eyes of third-party advertisers.

With the right anti-tracking extension, you can keep your browsing habits away from third parties by stopping their tracking cookies dead in their tracks.

Our #1 Choice: Privacy Badger

Install from Chrome web store
Install as Add-on to Firefox
Install as Add-on to Opera

Maybe we’re a little biased, but our pick for the best anti-tracking software is the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s own Privacy Badger.

privacy badger

Privacy Badger keeps an eye out for suspicious third parties tracking you while you browse different websites, then jumps to your defense by blocking their tracking cookies. The little badger is a good buddy to have by your side while you surf the Internet.

Privacy Badger in action
Privacy Badger has your back by preventing third parties from tracking you

Runner-up: Ghostery

Install from Chrome web store
Install as Add-on to Firefox
Install as Add-on to Opera
Install from Microsoft store

Ghostery anti-tracking

Ghostery works similarly to Privacy Badger but comes with a slightly better interface. There’s also an option to share your data with Ghostery to improve your experience. However, Ghostery doesn’t block any trackers by default and only lets you inspect them from the interface, where you can decide what to do with them.

Ghostery has a great UI

Site-Securing Extensions

After arming yourself with ad blockers and anti-tracking extensions, the coup-de-grâce in your privacy setup should be a good site-securing extension.

Secure websites use the HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure) protocol. Web sites secured by HTTPS encrypt your personal information like your credit card details, personal information, and other sensitive data.

But not all websites are HTTPS-enabled, so take your browsing security into your own hands with a site-securing extension. Here are our top picks!

Our #1 choice: HTTPS Everywhere

Install from Chrome web store
Install as Add-on to Firefox
Install as Add-on to Opera

Stop wondering whether or not the website you’re browsing is safe. Use HTTPS Everywhere!

HTTPS Everywhere download

HTTPS Everywhere is the result of a collaborative effort between The Tor Project and the EFF. The plugin automatically rewrites requests to direct you to HTTPS-secured sites. So if your browsing takes you to unsecured areas of a website, HTTPS Everywhere will redirect you to the encrypted HTTPS site and keep your sensitive data from leaking.

https everywhere in action
With HTTPS Everywhere, you’ll never have to worry about landing on an unsecure site again

Runner-up: KB SSL Enforcer

Install from Chrome web store

KB SSL Enforcer

KB SSL Enforcer redirects to the HTTPS version of a website whenever it is available. Because there’s no need to manually add rules this sometimes works better than HTTPS Everywhere. However, it might also force you to visit the HTTPS version of the site, even if it’s broken.

Hope this helps you! If you have any questions about any of the mentioned software, just leave them in the form of a comment below and ExpressVPN will get back to you.

 

Featured image: WavebreakmediaMicro / Dollar Photo Club

26 COMMENTS

  1. Brave.com is a fantastic browser that you can use on any operating system. I have been using it for two weeks now and whilst it does have some scaling issues on the screen occassionally it shows you how many trackers it is blocking

  2. I’m receiving unsolicited calls from numbers with my own area code. They are scammers. I am highly suspicious that this is because I input my phone number on various sites and portals (Amazon, Facebook, the tagline of emails I send, etc. etc.). I’ve installed Ghostery and HTTPS but I am convinced that there should be a better way for the layman to protect their phone numbers from international scammers on regular browsers.

    For example, what if a browser add-on was developed so that when inputting one’s phone number, information was stored and transferred as the word of the number, rather than the digit? Does an add-on like this exist?

  3. All great extensions! Definitely there are no guarantees online when it comes to privacy, but doing something is better than doing nothing, so make use of these apps and protect what privacy is left.

    Best to all, Darren Chaker

  4. You should remove the WOT extension from your list. There was a report aired on German national television that the company was selling the browsing history of its users. Both Firefox & Google removed WOT from their repository or webstore. Perhaps you can look into using McAfee SiteAdvisor or TrustGuard instead.

  5. 1. using HTTPS is NO GUARANTEE of “safe browsing.” This is just a stupid belief.

    2. Privacy Badger is still very weak, even now (September 11, 2016)

    • HTTPS cuts out a number of attack vectors accessible to low key adversaries. HTTPS is no guarantee for anything, but as long as you respect warnings and make sure that it is used, you will make it impossible for a rogue router or curious kid in the coffee shop to sniff your passwords. That’s a big win!

  6. Close… You really only need two. uBlock and uMatrix. Turn off the lists in uBlock that are on in uMatrix and you have a good start. I run EasyList, EasyPrivacy, Fanboy, Disconnect Malvertising, and Spam404 in uBlock.
    uMatrix has a learning curve like NoScript does for FF, but it’s not bad. With uMatrix you can set HTTPS on a per site basis, so you won’t need the 3rd extension.
    My experience with HTTPS-Everywhere in FF wasn’t good. When I closed a Private Browser session CCleaner found their cookies that they left behind.
    Plus, by using extensions and addons from the same people you can take your uMatrix settings and export them from FF to Chrome and back.

  7. I have tried some ad blockers that are not mentioned in this list and they always seem to block Facebook from working correctly.

  8. I’m new to Google and Google extensions so this may be a dumb question, but how much data do these extensions use when browsing on your phone?

    • Hi Diana,

      Not a whole lot. Also if you use our recommended ad blocker extension, you’re cutting the load times to more than half, consuming less data.

  9. The 3 best browser extensions you recommend are all not available for the Safari browser!!! I’m a convinced user of Express VPN but I would really appreciate it if your blogs would also taking care of all the apple users. I would be happy to receive a respond.

  10. Excellent article, folks. In this era of privacy concerns, such extensions are indeed a must-have. Thanks, Niraj (Founder at hiverhq.com)

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