Today I was sorting through the extensions I’ve been using over the past few months. There’s the standard bunch like uBlock Origin, Dark Reader, Stylish, and whatnot. You know, something that everyone might have in their browser. What about the rest? The rest are mostly “privacy-focused” extensions: Decentraleyes, Privacy Badger, Browser Plugs, ScriptSafe, Random User-Agent, Auto-clean Cookie; the list goes on. Then it hit me.
Why do I even have to install these extensions in the first place?
The Internet has become so prevalent in predatory tracking and data collection that people around the world have begun to develop these anti-tracking extensions to keep their privacy secure. If you take a step back and think about it, though, it is absolutely absurd that we have to work on such a solution to prevent these privacy issues from happening in the first place.
Let’s take various browsers we have in the 2010s and onward, for example. Firefox started off as nothing more than an alternative but has recently grown into a privacy-focused organization. Taking a quick look at its options menu, we can already see a “Privacy Protection” option, which gives you a glance at your current privacy settings.
Vivaldi has also started pushing for its privacy-related campaigns by adding more and more privacy-related features.
However, despite the implementation of these features, it has proven to be still not enough. Through various fingerprinting techniques and cross-domain trackers, user devices and browsing habits can still be tracked. Some really do not like the idea of it; thus started developing extensions that attempt to block such behaviors. Some even began building sites like PrivacyTools.io, which further promotes such extensions.
From a broader scope, this idea seems absolutely absurd to me.
No, I do believe in these extensions and will continue to use them. It is the fact that consumers are assumed to have no control over their privacy by default that baffles me. I have no interest in letting you know what software I’m running on (through UA and HTML canvas), what devices I have (through certain WebRTC implementations, WebGL), where I’m currently located (through IP address and date-time fingerprinting), etc. Why aren’t these barred off by the browser and or aren’t within specs in the first place? Better yet, why aren’t there laws in place regarding privacy still in this modern-day? Granted, we are making progress in some of these areas, such as Google phasing out User-Agent. The problem is that we are progressing very very slowly in standardizing privacy.