Priv3 for Firefox — Block Social Networking Trackers

I think anyone who uses social software wants Priv3: Practical Third-Party Privacy, especially as tracking by these outfits seems on the rise:

How Priv3 Works

Blocking simple "web bugs" or "trackers" is fairly straightforward, because doing so does not harm your web surfing experience. By contrast, completely blocking social networking features is counterproductive, because doing prevents you from actually using these features—say to leave a comment, or to "like" something—when you would like to do so.

Therefore, Priv3 does not block third-party interactions completely. Instead, it selectively suppresses the inclusion of third-party web cookies when your browser pulls in content from the social networks, but does provide them if you decide to interact with the social networking features. You still see the number of "likes" the page has accumulated on Facebook or the comments other people left using Facebook’s discussion mechanism. Facebook however only learns the IP address of the computer you are using.

Should you decide to interact with the social feature, Priv3 detects any mouseclick or keystroke directed at the feature. It then reloads it with your session cookies and passes on the click or keystroke, thus revealing your identity to the social network and informing it of your desired action.

Priv3’s Currently Supported Social Networking Sites

Priv3 currently understands the interactive features of the following social networks:

Facebook
Twitter
Google +1
LinkedIn

We will expand the list in the future, as needed.

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7 Responses to Priv3 for Firefox — Block Social Networking Trackers

  1. Vic says:

    The need to actually block people from outside of our system from running programs, deleting, copying, moving, and creating files, sending out data that we didn’t CHOOSE to send out, and even making us go to a 3rd party, allow them access to our computer, just to manage this capability (i.e. Adobe Flash Cookies) is just the end result of the Microsoft world we have created for ourselves. We have freely given them Overlord status and now we live with the consequences.

    We have spent a generation (computer-wise) letting MS tell us what we should be able to do with our computers, and a generation of making the Windows operating system so easy to use (and exposed) that a chimp could do it. Now we have WEB BROWSERS that (for our otherwise convenience) allow outsiders to take more control of our computers than we do, all because we don’t want the hassle of having to know how a little bit about computers before using them. And we ACCEPT the paradigm that this is OK, because MS has successfully trained us that such is the way that computing should work. “The user shouldn’t NEED to have control of his own computer, and anybody with a good reason should be able to run whatever they want on your computer to make things look even cooler to you! You should never have to even THINK about your computer, it should just magically do cool stuff.”

    Unfortunately, this is exactly how various forms of malware do their evil, exactly the development environment that creates these kinds of tracking tools, and exactly the reason I run Linux whenever possible. It might not solve all problems, but it stops a lot of them.

    My personal belief is that NOBODY should have a Windows box exposed to the web in any way, but should take that old useless PII or PIII box rotting away in the garage, load Puppy Linux, or something light like that on it, bump the security to maximum (from Linux’s default “almost maximum”) and ONLY use that box to surf the web. If you download anything, scan it before letting it loose in your Windows box.

  2. Just me says:

    Vic: Most of us are not tech savvy, and we LIKE the idea that “You should never have to even THINK about your computer, it should just magically do cool stuff.” My iPad seems to work this way and does not appear to suffer from all the crap that plagues my Windows based PC. I hear that this is true of most Apple products.

  3. Vic says:

    It takes very little tech savvy to run Linux these days. Burn yourself a LiveCD of Ubuntu 10.04. You can boot your computer (and even run it) from the CD (just set your BIOS to boot from a CD first) without installing it. Linux is much more compatible with more hardware than Windows is. And, even running it with no changes at all, you are running a box with waaaaay more security than Windows has without a master tweaker to come seal it up for you.

    The basic reason for this is because of the permissions system that Unix/Linux systems have in place. Whereas Windows will allow anybody and anything run anything at any time (the source of its “convenience” on a Unix/Linux box you have to specifically give things permission to run. So what you (and most people, honestly) love about Windows is also why you have to walk the Internet on eggshells, pay off some Virus checker’s protection money, and constantly clean things up (at least you should be). Many Macs are based on a type of Unix and have this same permission system in place, which is largely why they are safer. Windows is just an open target, screaming out to the Internet, “Come get me, I’m unarmed!”

    You would be utterly amazed if you knew how many times each day your Internet connection, through your router/firewall (and you HAVE TO use a router/firewall these days) gets tested by programs going around pinging and then testing any connection they find. Michael probably has that data for his website somewhere. It’ll easily be in the hundreds of times.

    In that kind of environment, I think it’s just foolish to just allow anyone to put anything on your computer for the sake of convenience anymore. I have no problem if you want to keep running Windows, but get someone tech savvy to show you how to lock it up properly – because I guarantee it is not now.

  4. Just me says:

    Vic: I won’t lie. I did not read your last comment in its entirety. After reading the first paragraph I determined the following: most of the words are identifiable, but in combination cannot possibly be written in any language that I am familiar with.

    For example:
    1) what is a “LiveCD”; 2) what is Ubuntu 10.04; 3) how does one boot a computer (seriously, not a joke); 4) what does it mean to “set your BIOS”; 5) I am running a box?; and 6) what is a “master tweaker”?

  5. Vic says:

    I had a lengthier reply, but Michael’s server wouldn’t take it for some reason, and disallowed me to try posting the same thing again.

    But in a nutshell: You should be aware that the very thing that makes Windows computers so very eary to use from behind the keyboard, makes them even easier to use and control from the Internet. Microsoft simply never designed it’s system to work safely in a networked environment – and the Internet is a network that you connect to. The very openess and ease of use that you crave, is the very openness and ease of use that malware writers abuse. Google up “zombie computer” sometime and be aware that many, many thousands of Windows “boxes” (computers) are running as zombies on the Internet, with no knowledge of their owners.

    The reason a Unix/Linux box doesn’t have this problem is that it implements a basic set of file permissions that by default disallows almost all of what malware can do. To get a virus on a Linux box, you have to take all kinds of postive steps. To get a virus on a Windows box, you just have to use it as usual. The reasons that (many) macs are not susceptable to Microsoft type security problems is that (many of not all) Macs use an operating system that is based on Unix (like Linux) and so has the same file permissions safety. You do not need to master a command line to properly run a Linux box – that’s just more microsoft propoganda. I think you’d find a modern Linux distribution, like Ubuntu 10.04, to be easier to set up and use than Windows.

    Whether or not you ever want to upgrade to an inherently safer operating system like Linux or even a Mac, you would be foolish not to get someone who really understands Windows to set it up for your safely. Default, out of the box, used as nomally done, and as you very likely are, Windows is one giant security risk. Every day it seems, more information is disclosed suggesting that companies (and obviously therefore evil hackers) are exploiting the open security model of Windows. It takes MUCH more computer savvy to properly and safely run Windows than Linux. You can believe that or not.

  6. I’m all for Unix, and it is certainly more secure than Windows. But (1) It doesn’t actually work better with your hardware. On my network, getting unix to talk the printers behind the el cheapo printer driver is a real pain sometimes. And other exotics sometimes fail too. (2) It doesn’t work well enough (or at all, YMMV) with WordPerfect. (3) Good luck explaining it to people who don’t like computers.

    And, (4) if your office is standardized on MS products, e.g. exchange, you are likely in for a world of hurt.

  7. Vic says:

    I agree, it is an utter pain that so much of the business world has standardized on MS office. The good part is that Libre Office (what I run on my Linux boxes) is fairly compatible with MS Office. It can read and write all the expected Office files. (It’s actually more compatible with older Office formats than the current MS Office is [oddly, MS often makes newer Office versions uncompatible with older versions of itself - some speculate to keep the Open Source people having to keep up]). As for Word Perfect, it’ll read the file, but it doesn’t write in it (unfortunately). For my purposes, I just do my final write as a PDF for the court filing. (my suspician is that if MS ever made a Linux port of Office, it’d be the beginning of the end of Windows).

    I also know that look you get from people who suddenly hear that they might have to understand that their computer is not a black box that you can just point and click into doing your will. But I have also found that even non-computer-savvy folks, if they try it, are quite happy on modern Linux distros, which once set up are FAR more fire-and-forget than any Windows version. They are, in a lot of ways, easier than Windows to use and keep up to date, they are just different. I’m not sure Unix ever really got a good ditsro on X86 boxes. Linux is really the way to go for PC’s Solaris Unix is the top O/S for servers, but for a PC – a user friendly PC – I’d stick to Ubuntu. (though I have great fun running Puppy Linux on really old, slow and tiny PC’s). Hardware/Driver support in Linux is much better than Unix as well (and better than Windows).

    My main point is not that everyone should use Linux or Unix, but simply that if you choose to use Windows, you should be aware of how inherently unsecure it is and do whatever you need to do to tighten it up. Your initial post here is just more example of why.

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