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Are browser extensions tracking my clicks, or quietly collecting my data?

Whether you're using Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox or another browser, you've probably come across extensions before. They're excellent at blocking annoying ads, preventing tracking cookies and even keeping you from constantly checking Facebook. However, we've had a look into what our favourite extensions are doing with your data, and if they're worth sticking with.

Web of Trust
We've previously heralded this extension as a great solution to dodgy links. It allows you to see what other users have rated a link as before you click it, and accidentally download a ton of malware. 

Like many browser extensions, WoT tracks every link you click on, and then sells all those clicks and your data - which is how it can offer its service for free. However, this app has recently been in the news as the data they're selling is poorly anonymised, so it's not too difficult for someone to find out your identity from all those clicks. As such, we've decided to give Web of Trust the boot.

This is one of our favourite privacy extensions and does a great job stopping other people tracking your clicks, however, they do collect anonymised data on their users. Ghostery says, 'we believe that a data exchange relationship–where you give us permission to collect and use Tracker data and we give you a free privacy tool–is a fair way to do business.'

Ghostery gives you the option of opting out of this data collection - just head to the 'Settings' section, and then 'Support Ghostery'. Having read the privacy policy, we feel pretty comfortable sticking with this extension. 

AdBlock does exactly what it says on the tin, and blocks all the ads on every page you open; it even works on YouTube. We had a read of the privacy policy, and AdBlock says, 'We collect as little data as possible. As far as anonymous or pseudonymous use is possible we anonymize or pseudonymize your data.' 

This doesn't raise too many red flags. This extension does a great job of blocking advertisements; particularly those that are loaded with trackers and malicious software. We're fairly confident that AdBlock is sufficiently protecting your data.

Still worried?
Browser extensions can be really useful, but it's always worth checking the reviews and permissions for each one before you install. Here's a great guide to browser extensions, why they need those permissions and how to spot the fishier ones.

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