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Six browser plug-ins that protect your privacy

Rick Broida | Oct. 20, 2014
Want to avoid ads and keep your Web wanderings private? One of these six browser apps could do the trick.

Bottom line: If you want a mostly ad-free online experience, this does the trick. But AdBlock isn't quite as privacy-minded as Adblock Plus, and Internet Explorer users will have to look elsewhere.

Adblock Plus

Price: Free; accepts user contributions

Compatible with: Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari

Don't let the name fool you; Adblock Plus is not a "pro" version of AdBlock. Rather, it's a very similar tool that just happens to have a very similar name. (In fact, the former predates the latter by a few years.) It's somewhat controversial because it accepts money from some large companies to allow their advertising through as part of its "acceptable ads" policy.

What it does: Adblock Plus (commonly known as ABP) eliminates banners, pop-ups and videos from the sites you visit. It also disables tracking, though not by default.

How it performed: It's easy to understand ABP's popularity, as it performed extremely well on virtually every site I visited. However, though slightly prettier than AdBlock (at least when you pull up its action menu), ABP lacks a couple of the handy tools found in its competitor. For example, you can't fully disable ABP without venturing into the settings, while AdBlock lets you "pause" it with a simple click.

ABP effectively filtered the ads from the videos I played at Crackle and YouTube, but when I tried to stream an episode of "Party Down" from Hulu, ABP left me staring at a blank window. No ads played, but neither did the episode. After a refresh, it played the episode — but didn't filter out the ads.

It's curious that one of ABP's most highly touted capabilities, tracking protection, must be enabled manually. In fact, it was only by accident that I discovered it wasn't active: A link on the Features page directed me to the options screen where you add the protection.

Bottom line: Though perhaps not the best add-on with "Adblock" in its name, ABP is definitely the best choice for Internet Explorer users. It keeps ads and commercials away, and optionally stops trackers as well.

Disconnect

Price: Free; accepts user contributions

Compatible with: Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari

Disconnect aims to keep you in control of your personal info and does so primarily by blocking all tracking requests. It has the slick design of a commercial product — and in fact comes from a commercial software developer — but relies on a pay-what-you-want model (and lets you portion your contribution to charity if you wish). The developer also offers apps for Android and iOS.

What it does: Though positioned as a privacy tool, Disconnect also blocks ads. But it won't do anything about the commercials that appear in, say, YouTube videos.

 

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