Privacy Badger Puts You in Control of Widgets

Deeplinks 2024-01-10


The latest version of Privacy Badger 1 replaces embedded tweets with click-to-activate placeholders. This is part of Privacy Badger's widget replacement feature, where certain potentially useful widgets are blocked and then replaced with placeholders. This protects privacy by default while letting you restore the original widget whenever you want it or need it for the page to function.

Websites often include external elements such as social media buttons, comments sections, and video players. Although potentially useful, these “widgets” often track your behavior. The tracking happens regardless of whether you click on the widget. If you see a widget, the widget sees you back.

This is where Privacy Badger's widget replacement comes in. When blocking certain social buttons and other potentially useful widgets, Privacy Badger replaces them with click-to-activate placeholders. You will not be tracked by these replacements unless you explicitly choose to activate them.

A screenshot of Privacy Badger’s widget placeholder. The text inside the placeholder states that “Privacy Badger has replaced this X (Twitter) widget”. The words “this X (Twitter) widget” are a link. There are two buttons inside the placeholder, “Allow once” and “Always allow on this site.”

Privacy Badger’s placeholders tell you exactly what happened while putting you in control.

Changing the UI of a website is a bold move for a browser extension to do. That’s what Privacy Badger is all about though: making strong choices on behalf of user privacy and revealing how that privacy is betrayed by businesses online.

Privacy Badger isn’t the first software to replace embedded widgets with placeholders for privacy or security purposes. As early as 2004, users could install Flashblock, an extension that replaced embedded Adobe Flash plugin content, a notoriously insecure technology.

A screenshot of Flashblock’s Flash plugin placeholder.

Flashblock’s Flash plugin placeholders lacked user-friendly buttons but got the (Flash blocking) job done.

Other extensions and eventually, even browsers, followed Flashblock in offering similar plugin-blocking placeholders. The need to do this declined as plugin use dropped over time, but a new concern rose to prominence. Privacy was under attack as social media buttons started spreading everywhere.

This brings us to ShareMeNot. Developed in 2012 as a research tool to investigate how browser extensions might enforce privacy on behest of the user, ShareMeNot replaced social media “share” buttons with click-to-activate placeholders. In 2014, &


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Alexei Miagkov, Daly Barnett

Date tagged:

01/10/2024, 15:37

Date published:

01/10/2024, 09:34