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Recently I did quite a research about internet browser related privacy. It hit me hard in the flesh myself, since I was part of the victims in the [WOT fiasco]1]. So I found out that usually way over 90% of anonymized (not really, though) data is collected nowadays over browser plugins. It has become popular that the good old enemy cookies isn't even an issue anymore, because data collecting services already operate almost completely independent of any cookies.

Now my issue: I have a lot of browser plugins. I do. But ironically 90% of my browser plugins are ad blockers, track blockers, script blockers, cookie blockers, etc. Since Web of Trust it is obviously proven that you can't really trust anyone.

My question: What is more private (usage pattern wise, of course not IP wise): having no plugins and facing every tracking possible or having privacy related plugins and possibly being spied on by them? I'd prefer a pro and con list of both options.

Is this question "primarily opinion based" or are there some harsh truths favouring the one over the other?

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I'm sure you don't really need that many plugins, as most have overlapping functionalities. As of early 2017, I recommend using uBlock Origin to block most ads and trackers, and if you are tech savvy you can add uMatrix (instead of NoScript). Take care to always use https when possible, but I'm not sure you need an addon for this.

The more you have plugins and extensions, the more you increase the attack surface of your browser. So please deactivate Flash, Java and your antivirus plugin. Your adblocker will do more than your AV plugin to protect you from malware. If you do need to keep a plugin, take care to keep it updated to its last version.

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Installing components from lots of different suppliers within the same process is not a recipe for Security. If you are seeking to preserve your bandwidth, then it might make sense, but even if you completely trust all the plugin providers and can ensure that the plugins are secure and up to date it is (as you've hinted at) counter productive for protecting your identity.

1) Any plugin which modifies the user agent or exposes a Javascript API is enumerable and therefore makes you more different from most internet users

2) The more exposed plugins you have, the more unique the combination of components that makes up your browser.

3) The same applies (to a lesser extent) to anything which modifies the behaviour of your browser - it makes you stand out from the crowd.

Note that trusting your plugins is a huge caveat. You seem somewhat bitter to have found out that Web of Trust has not proved to be a magic security fix. In my experience all bolt-on "security" software products are inherently flawed.

Stop putting your trust in marketing.

  • I fully agree with your statement! But the actual reason for why I was bitter about WOT is rather the fact that it is literally the best extensions among all plugins that serve the purpose of checking and reviewing websites. WOT is literally (and still) the only extension I know that does that successfully. All other extensions that try to fullfil the same goal, fail horribly at it. Also could you explain #1 more? – Akito Mar 21 '17 at 7:33
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    Sorry, no: while generally I subscribe to Kerchoff's principle, this is an area which is very rapidly evolving (think arms race). So even if I gave away all the gory details here, it would be a different story in a month's time. There's a lot of material on the internet (stemming from Samy Kamkar's EverCookie and the Panopticlick project) – symcbean Mar 21 '17 at 10:23
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While you mention plugins, I think part of the answer here also involves looking at browsers.

Firefox has a different privacy policy than Chromium, for example.

The same is true of add-ons: WOT is a very different application from say PrivacyBadger, as WOT's privacy policy vs PrivacyBadger's would tend to show.

So the answer to your question is probably 'neither': you need to make an educated choice based on your needs and concerns.

I would personally err on the side of using a selected set of plugins, based at least in part on their provenance and privacy policies.

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I recommend using uBlock Origin to block most ads and trackers. Take care to always use https when possible, use the addon https-everywhere to make sure the website connects with https if possible. The addons from eff have good privacy policies , always have a look on the policy. There also is a free Version of windscribe VPN which has a nice addon with a few more privacy options.

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