A new tool has been deployed in the fight against online surveillance in the form of a browser plug-in that blocks spying ads and invisible trackers. Privacy Badger, released by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), comes in response to the rise in non-consensual tracking of people's web-browsing habits carried out by advertising companies.
The release of Privacy Badger 1.0 follows EFF's recently announced Do Not Track policy standard, formed together with a coalition of web companies including AdBlock Plus, privacy company Disconnect, publishing site Medium and search engine DuckDuckGo.
Beta versions of the plug-in have previously been installed by more than 250,000 web users, though EFF believes many people are still unaware of the extent of online tracking.
"Often, users aren't aware that they're being tracked around the internet by dozens of different companies," EFF said in a post detailing the Privacy Badger plug-in. "Even if you know what's up, changing browser settings to make yourself safe is essentially impossible.
"The advertising industry has proposed opt outs that are better described as 'pretend not to track', with an emphasis on hiding the symptoms of tracking rather than actually preventing it. But users still need a way to opt-out of the non-consensual collection of data."
The plug-in works with the Chrome and FireFox web browsers, much like other online privacy extensions such as AdBlock Plus and Ghostery. Privacy Badger was even based on the same code as AdBlock Plus, however EFF cites key differences in the software's functionality.
EFF claims that unlike current extensions, Privacy Badger does not require custom configuration to block non-consensual trackers. The organisation also cites the business models of other extensions that it is "not entirely comfortable with".
The online media industry has often criticised such extensions for stifling advertisement revenue that media outlets require to survive, however EFF claimed that a balance should be made.
"To be clear, EFF isn't against websites seeking to build businesses around advertising," EFF stated. "More business models means a more vibrant web. But advertising cannot come at the expense of user privacy and the inviolable principle of consent.
"Until the online tracking industry changes its ways, the only option for users is to protect themselves by installing tools such as Privacy Badger."