Learn Who Tracks Your Online Activity with Ghostery

Whether you believe it or not, you’re an important person on the Internet.. Yups. Advertising networks are all competing over how best to track your web activity. These activity can include how you interact with a particular website, what you are most likely going to click on, how long each of your visit usually lasts, how you actually landed on that website in the first place, and so on and so on. If you are a content publisher, such as a blogger like myself, these data can be very important. You get to learn what excites your readers the most, how they found your website, the search terms they’ve used in their search engine prior to clicking your website and so forth. This in return allows the publisher to adjust and tweak their websites in order to appeal more to its audience members. Well, some of you still might not like the idea of being “tracked”, even if the data is being used for website “improvement” purposes. So, how would you feel if those data gathered about you were being sold to other companies instead or used behind your back to do other things? Not good right? Wouldn’t you want to learn how to prevent these advertising companies from tracking you in the first place?

Privacy Concerns

Let me get one thing straight before continuing on: a lot of people can have a different outlook where their online privacy is concerned. Take myself for example. Personally, I really don’t care that much that my browsing activity is tracked. Do I really care if advertising companies find out that I like to visit Facebook while browsing for products on Amazon at the same time? Do I care if companies find out I prefer to one type of product over another? Do I care that an advertising company collects my data and in return use that data to better target their advertisements for me? Hardly. If they want to advertise certain products for me based on my search/purchase history, fine. In this past article, I actually go over why I really don’t mind advertisements at all. However, I do have a problem once these advertising networks start collecting “personal” information about me behind my back or once they can actually start identifying me with their collected data. This is the big issue I have with so called online tracking companies.

The Problem

SpiesOK, so maybe you don’t want to be spied upon. You have your reasons for not wanting to, obviously. So now what? Well, here’s the other problem: it’s not apparently clear to casual users on how to disable third party companies from tracking your browsing history. In fact, many users do not even know that they are actively being tracked upon visiting a website! It’s not like there’s a big sign on a website that says, “Hey there visitor! Your browsing history is now being tracked by xxx companies!”. Many websites are however, required to mention somewhere on their website about their privacy policy. Usually, this link can be found way towards the bottom of the site. Look for either a link that says “Privacy Policy”, “Terms of Use” or something of that nature. This policy should detail about how the website is gathering your data and whatnot and what they can and cannot do with it. In normal circumstances, no one really reads what is on this page let alone being able to find it in the first place. You see, our goal here is not to negotiate. We are here to obliterate these tracking mechanisms!

The Solution

Opting OutIn order to stop telling third party agencies from tracking our online behavior and activities, we need to actually tell them! That’s right folks. By default, we can be tracked by these so called tracking elements without knowing any better. Unless we tell them otherwise, nothing happens. Well, that’s about to change. From my limited knowledge, many advertising agencies rely on tracking cookies to monitor your behavior. These cookie files are nothing more than simple files that get stored on your computer whenever you visit a website. Are all cookies bad? The answer is simply no. However, this subject can be an entire new post by itself so I won’t get into that debate here. What you need to know is that by default, websites get permission to store these cookies on your computer (unless you blocked all cookies from entering your system in the first place). Unless you erase your cookie store from within your browser, these cookie files usually have a long life span and will remain on your computer. There are different types of cookies and some do expire after a short period of time but for advertising cookies, I’m sure they have a very long life.

Want to delete these cookies? Sure! Go right on ahead! However, know that upon re-visiting the site with the offending cookie, it will get blasted right down to your computer again. Is all hope lost? Of course not! It turns out that there are bad cookies and good cookies. The bad cookies are the one’s I’ve just talked about. The good cookies are called the opt-out cookies. These specific cookies, once created and stored on your computer, tells a specific advertising agency that you do not want to be tracked by them and therefore to leave them the heck alone. Think of opting out as unsubscribing to a service. Remember what I said earlier in that in order for agencies to not track you, you have to specifically tell them? Well, these opt-out cookies is doing exactly that. So how do we start “opting” out?

I’ve gone over another excellent browser add-on called TACO (Targeted Advertising Cookie Opt-Out) in a separate post here. The add-on is neat in that once installed, it will help you create the opt-out cookies needed for many of the most popular advertising networks. Even if you clear your cookie store, these opt-out cookies will remain. Another popular add-on is called NoScript and this tool can do a whole lot more than what I will be going over here. However, NoScript is a bit too powerful in blocking things and is a generally more advance type of add-on for power users.

Ghostery

Ghostery is a free add-on available on today’s most popular browsers. Once installed, each time you visit a website, Ghostery will quickly do an initial scan for third-party presence on that site. Hidden elements that are not shown in the site’s source code can still get detected by Ghostery. This is effective in scenarios where some companies really don’t want you to know about them and so use sneaky techniques to embed themselves onto that site. Once the scan has completed, Ghostery will show you the list of tracking agencies found. From here, you can easily opt-out of these companies or learn more about them. The reason I am using Ghostery is due to its simplicity Unlike other more advanced Javascript blocking tools such as NoScript, I just wanted a tool that helps me track which advertising network is present on a given website and block them from appearing again.

You can download and learn more about the Ghostery add-on from here.

Getting started with Ghostery is very easy. Download the add-on for your current browser, install, configure some settings and you’re all set! Upon initial startup, you’ll be presented with Ghostery’s wizard. I suggest you go over each page. However, you can also tweak Ghostery’s settings and behavior after this wizard completes as well.

  1. After the welcome page, Ghostery allows you to opt-in to GhostRank. This service allows you to send anonymous usage of the add-on to Ghostery’s team and developers. There are specific information they collect from you and more information can be gleaned by reading their FAQs page. In essence, by turning on GhostRank, you get to help out Ghostery by providing useful statistics and information in hopes that they themselves better learn how advertising networks work. Of course, you are not required to enable GhostRank to use Ghostery.
  2. Upon detecting third party elements on a webpage (which will happen pretty much on every website you visit), Ghostery will alert you. By default, this alert will pop-out in the top right corner of your browser and will remain visible for 15 seconds. We can configure the settings later but for now, choose to enable Alerts.
  3. As with many services that relies on blocking things, there must be a way to update that master list. Ghostery is no exemption. You can choose to enable Auto-Update to have Ghostery automatically download and update that master list without your intervention. I suggest you turn this on.
  4. The last option you configure is pretty confusing in my opinion. I left the first option (enable Blocking) off because I personally don’t know how that works. Cookie Protection allows Ghostery to automatically help you block cookies from advertising network domains on their list.

Ghostery WelcomeGhostery GhostRankGhostery NotificationGhostery UpdatesGhostery Blocking
Once the wizard completes, we can begin using Ghostery. However, there is one more thing we should configure. Click on the Ghostery icon in your browser’s add-on bar and select Options from its menu. Here you can configure where to place the Alert Bubble  for Ghostery and how long it should be visible for. Remember, this bubble appears anytime you visit a website and third party elements are found. This will happen for many of the websites you visit. So that means you’ll be seeing this bubble a lot (assuming you didn’t disable it altogether). The Alert Bubble will only show you the items it finds on a website. Clicking on it won’t do anything. To block a third party element, you will still have to manually click on the Ghostery icon, which I’ll go over in a minute. As far as all the other options go, sticking to the defaults seems pretty safe. You are also able to have Ghostery delete Flash and Silverlight cookies on exit.

Ghostery OptionsUsing Ghostery

There’s not much to utilizing Ghostery. Once installed and configured, you’ll see a bubble alert each and every time you visit a website listing the third party elements it caught. These can range from advertising networks to other things. To block an element, simply click on the Ghostery icon, mouse over to the element and choose to block it. That’s it! From then on, that company, advertising agency or whatever it is will be blocked from loading on your computer/browser. When you visit another site that has that same element installed, it will also be prevented from loading! Because there are so many networks out there, it can be pain to figure out what each one does. Ghostery allows you to easily glean more information on a particular network as well. Instead of blocking the element, select the “What is xyz?” link where xyz is the element in question. Ghostery will provide some basic information about that element.

The problem with going all out and blocking each and every element you see is that some of them are necessary for the page to function correctly. As an example, head over to ESPN.com. In Ghostery, block the ForeSee element and refresh the page. You’ll then notice that the ESPN scoreboard has now completely disappeared! It is cases like these in where you have to be careful. You could block a third party element on one website and because that same element will also be blocked on future websites, it could unintentionally break something. Fortunately though, you can whitelist a domain in Ghostery. Simply visit the site, click the Ghostery icon and select the appropriate option to have that site whitelisted. From then on, all elements on that site will be able to run while the offending element will still be blocked in all other domains you visit. This is a very handy feature.

One missing feature that would make Ghostery more accessible is an export/import function. I use my laptop the most and so I’ve blocked many third party elements within Ghostery. When I install the add-on on my desktop computer, I have to start from scratch again. It would be awesome if we could export to a file containing a list of all the third party elements we’ve blocked and import it to a new installation of Ghostery on another machine. This would save a lot of time in my opinion.

Ghostery NotificationBlocking ElementsElement's Information

Admission of Guilt and Warning

As of right now, I am not proud of myself. I have around 8 different third party elements on AnotherWindowsBlog. It’s party my fault because I have deployed 3 different site tracking utilities where I only needed one. Some elements are completely out of my hands. When I install some useful plugin in WordPress, some necessary elements are loaded by default. Usually, a company will tell you first hand if this is the case. In many scenarios, you’ll definitely come across third party elements that you’ll see over and over again. Such includes anything with the words Google in front of it, Twitter, Facebook, DoubleClick, Comscore Beacon and a host of others.

In the end, I want to conclude that while Ghostery gives us an easy way to block third party elements from tracking our activity, it can also have unintended side effects. For the most part, blocking advertising agencies won’t really have an impact on your browsing experience as many things are performed “behind the scenes”. There are some elements that I chose not to block such as anything that starts with the words “Google” in front of it. Also, please remember that not all cookies that track your behavior is necessarily evil. For many bloggers, I need to get a sense of where and how visitors are landing on my site. To do so, I have to deploy some type of tracking mechanism such as Google Analytics which will no doubt be listed in Ghostery. The problem with third party tracking agencies is you don’t really know how they will behave. Unfortunately, many users will never know any of this. There are dozens and dozens of advertising and other network agencies that are interested in what you do. Not feeling particularly loved? Just hop on the net and know that at least someone is interested in what you do!

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Comments

  1. @Simon “says” (???) Hmmm…

    I read your tutorial on email encryption (http://bit.ly/y3i5h7), and even though I had read information about that previously, I must say that you have the best explanation I’ve ever seen. I happen to be one of the people you mentioned who had decided not to use it when I discovered the recipient of my email had to have a key, too. Anyway, you did a fantastic job of explaining yourself, and I always appreciate seeing tutorials that even the new-kid-on-the-block can understand. Why? Because I’ve been that “kid” many times…and there were times when I wished I could have reached through my computer screen to give the person a big hug for helping me! I once used a webmail called Lavabit, which uses the 2-key encryption process (for “paid” customers). Administrators don’t even have access to your emails, and they didn’t keep copies of your emails on their servers either; each time you sent an email, a 2nd copy appeared in your account for you to dispose of. Don’t forget your password or you were out of luck. They used only plain text when I used it, and so I cancelled my account because I missed using the less safer HTML (don’t know if that’s changed now or not).

    Regarding Google’s new “one-privacy-policy-fits-all” come March 1, I read 161 comments in a recent issue of Mail Online, and if those responses are typical of what is to come, Google is going to end up “also” being the loser this time…and perhaps for the very first time, “big time!” With Google’s new policy, I now have 2 reasons to close my YouTube account; (1)the destruction of the old channel format (which is extremely depressing & upsetting to tons of users) and (2)the switching of YouTube over to “SpyTube.” It’s not going to be much fun any longer for people to sign up for “channels” because almost all the old features will be gone and no longer will you be able to watch videos on users’ channels…when you click on a video, you will automatically be taken away from the channel and out to the regular YouTube watch pages.
    ……Of note, relating to NoScript, a day or two ago, when I went to watch videos – with my NoScript blocking scripts – I found the featured videos displaying as a “black box” only. I now need to use NoScript to temporarily allow the YouTube script to run. I have no idea why this was changed unless this, also, has something to do with the new Google privacy policy and a new YouTube tracking process.

    I don’t have a Facebook account (and never will). I have a Twitter account from about 3 years ago or so, but I never used it, and I will be closing it, too. I, too, have nothing to hide when it comes to using search engines. However, I do object to my searches being “stored” in a database…and I honestly do object to somebody tracking every move I make because I have a Constitutional right to be free from “stalkers.” Unfortunately, our Constitution is being trampled on, and that needs to stop…ASAP. Now we’re dealing with lingering PIPA & SOPA outcomes, and the even more scary ACTA (not to mention Obama’s signing of the NDAA on December 31). If ACTA is finalized by all the countries involved (which is going on as I speak), we won’t need to worry about anyone tracking many of our searches. Why? Because many websites will no longer be available to even search for!

    ATTN: Simon
    Please feel free to delete any part of/or my entire comment today. I’m now going to add something which you might not feel appropriate for your blog. If you haven’t seen the YouTube videos about ACTA, I realize you are capable of searching for them if you so desire. However, I found a few that I really liked and if you wish to see them, I have them on my YouTube channel, also – in the Favorites area. I don’t upload videos, but recently YouTube switched the video uploader’s name under the featured video to the channel user’s name instead; another great “new” move by YouTube! With all of the copyright infringements & videos YouTube removes, you wouldn’t think they would have chosen to do that. I almost closed my YouTube account early this morning, but I just couldn’t bring myself to close it “yet.” I spent a year working on my channel, selecting mostly musical playlists from the 60s. I had intended to go through an A-Z alphabet of artists from that era, but I only made it up to the letter “C” (basically due to all of the problems YouTube began having when they started switching over to the new format); and now I will need to cancel my project. I, like so many others, wanted so very much to be allowed to keep the old format, which is displaying on my channel yet until March 1 (supposedly now until March 7), but, unfortunately, YouTube has gone a step farther and – without my prior knowledge – decided to change my “video manager” inside my account location to the NEW format one day ago (which now doesn’t function correctly either), but they weren’t supposed to do any of that until March! That prompted me to “lose my cool” and start a forum thread telling (not “asking”) them to GIVE ME BACK MY OLD FORMAT ASAP! No, I did not politely say “please!” (That was sort of the final straw.) Needless to say, I have not received a reply from that comment or another one I made at the same time elsewhere. Hmmm…I wonder why?! In my opinion, Google has dramatically destroyed YouTube. Anyway, “as of this moment”, I still have my account and if you would like to see those ACTA videos, my channel username is as follows:
    http://youtube.com/Singing60s

    P.S. I stumbled upon a search engine yesterday with another no-tracking privacy policy. The reason it caught my eye was due to its “interesting” name. It’s called: “DuckDuckGo”

    • I’m glad you find my articles useful! My only hope is to spread knowledge and so if you’ve got something out of it, I’ve done my job.

      Right now, the major problem I have with Google is in their thinking that anything they change is the best for everyone. It’s not. Because they are the giant company that they are today, they can get away with a lot of stuff. In most cases, I don’t even think they care. So many people (including myself) complain about certain features in Google Chrome, one of the most widely used browser today, and yet nothing gets fix. Recently, due to the SOPA thing, more people are now paying attention on how being online can affect their privacy. While I do consume Youtube videos, I’m not what you would call a contributor so I can’t share your feelings of the new changes to the interface. However, I have been reading up on it and like you said, many are not liking it.

      As for ACTA, thanks for pointing that out to me. It really does feel like the whole SOPA thing was just a distraction. Battling counterfeit items and bootleggers is a definite must. However, how the government is purporting to do just that by passing these laws in my and many other opinions just doesn’t seem right. Sometimes, I feel so defeated and tired. If one law doesn’t pass, hey, why not just create another until one passes?! So many things are happening behind the scenes and I’m tired of trying to keep track of them. So many people are losing faith in our government and I can’t even blame them.

      But to stay on topic, as we move further into the digital age and as more and more technology gets created to invade our privacy online, the more need the users will have for extensions such as NoScript and such to combat them.

  2. @Simon…glad to see you survived my novel-length comment!

    Regarding “Ghostery”, like I said previously, I truly liked it very much…until I noticed in a Firefox forum that the owner had sold it to an “advertising” business. Huh? An advertising business was now in charge of helping us block out advertising scripts? Therefore, since that didn’t quite sound right to me, I “very reluctantly” decided to get rid of Ghostery. However, Simon, I do agree with you about it being a nice app; it’s extremely easy to use, and I actually had fun playing around with it!

    Regarding privacy and “tracking” issues, I just thought of something else. You mentioned Google search, and that prompted me to think about “my” search engines. I stopped using Google search about 4 years ago (except for perhaps a dozen or so searches), and now I use the following 2 search engines:
    (1) startingpage.com (mine = https://startingpage.com)
    (2) scroogle.org (mine = https://ssl.scroogle.org/index.html)
    …You can choose from http or httpS, but I choose the more secure one (https).
    …Scroogle even allows choosing your searches from 20 or 50 or 100 searches at a time.

    Since “tracking” does involve search engines, too, I wanted to mention which search engines are actually considered private and don’t keep your IP or searches longer than 24-48 hours. These 2 search engines are terrific and make me also feel extra secure. I switched from Google because I don’t think Google needs to basically keep your searches on file “forever”, even if they say they now don’t keep them “that” long.

    Another idea I just now had regarding “privacy” issues – “webmail”.
    Most email services like Google or Hotmail (where I also have an account) are not very “private” either (understatement)! I left Google a long time ago and I’ve wanted to leave Hotmail ever since they created a new interface a couple of years or so ago. So with that said, just in case you’ve never heard about this, there should be a new email in town come this summer…and I can hardly wait!!! It will be webmail by “startingpage.com” – from the owners of the private search engine I currently use. Since they know how much privacy really means to the public and actually do someting about it, they surely will have a lot of people wanting to sign up…once they hear about it, right? I am so very much looking forward to getting started with them (it’s been in the works for a couple of years now) and my one other desire (besides it being less intrusive) is for the interface to be “basically” simple and actually “work” (at least, most of the time).

    • It does look awkward for Ghostery to be sold to an advertising based company as the extension’s sole mission is to block ads. I doubt they bought Ghostery to shut it down. Maybe they wanted to learn something from the service or needed access to something. Who knows! Right now, I’m trying to get familiar with ScriptNot as much as possible and Ghostery has been put in the back seat because it’s the next big thing when compared to NoScript for Firefox.

      As for search engines, I personally don’t mind them keeping track of my history. I have nothing to hide. However, the thing that scares me is when the service gathers not just your search history but all of your other data as well from other services and being able to put together a profile on you. That’s why I stay away from Facebook as much as possible and only post when it’s absolutely necessary to keep my friends updated. It’s funny we are talking about this because at this very moment, Google is about to update their privacy policies and a lot of people are angry. Basically, they are going to do exactly what I just said above: being able to track you across various services.

      When it comes to email, I wouldn’t trust any email service no matter how much they claim they may make concerning privacy. The truth of the matter is, if they have your data on their servers, you can never claim it to be truly yours. This is why many are hesitant when it comes to cloud computing and storage. The Dropbox fiasco was a huge example. They claimed all your data was encrypted and that not even their employees could access the data. It was a big lie and they got caught for it. I don’t know anything about startingpage.com and so I thank you for bringing that up. However, you would be pretty insane to trust them with your *truly* private emails just because they claim it to be so. Considering how much of a security minded individual you seem from your last couple of comments here, I’m sure you don’t need a reminder on that. You seem to put a lot of effort into staying secure online. For truly private emails that no one can read except for the intended recipient, you must use encryption and for that, you can deploy something like OpenPGP. | http://bit.ly/y3i5h7

  3. Oops! I forgot one more Firefox add-on that I also use. It’s called “RefControl”. Sometimes websites like to see which website you’re coming from and take notice of your http referral. “RefControl” has different settings to choose from, including a default setting to BLOCK from their view the website you just left. Except for a few websites, I leave my setting on the “block” default. I’ve only run acrossed a few websites that wouldn’t let me in until I changed the setting, but it’s a simple application to use. With that said, if I had to choose any of my apps/add-ons I mentioned previously to go without, it would be the “RefControl”; I definitely won’t let anyone take away the other ones!

    • The referral thing can sometimes help web publishers and bloggers such as myself to see how people are finding my site. Granted, almost 98% of my total traffic is from Google Search so it’s not much use to me! However, sometimes it’s still nice to see the search terms that my readers typed into Google prior to getting here.

      With that being said though, I still respect the privacy of all readers and so of course, if others such as yourself choose to implement RefControl, I have no problems with it either. Blocking access to a site because of this is just plain silliness. There were definitely times when I wished I didn’t want some websites to know where I was coming from as well.

  4. @Simon…it was nice to see your reply!
    Um…I think this is going to end up being “lengthy”, so you might want to pull up a chair and make yourself comfy…maybe kick off your shoes and grab your favorite drink…and perhaps some popcorn, too!

    I just want to say that NoScript has saved me from bad “things” for the last 4 years. With NoScript, AdblockPlus, and Better Privacy (Better Privacy gets rid of those “super” tracking cookies that many users, unfortunately, don’t know about), I have almost never seen an “ad” for 4 years. I guess YouTube uses lots of ads, but I don’t see them, and that’s fine with me. Anyway, just to make myself a little more clear, by me choosing to “temporarily allow” most of the websites instead of choosing “allow” (and have the script be allowed automatically), I have the option to unblock a script “after” I arrive at a website – only if need be or if I so desire. Of note is that “I” never choose “allow scripts globally” (as recommended not to do).

    I start off by “temporarily” allowing the main website’s script first…as in your case here, the first script showing (at bottom of list) would be “anotherwindowsblog.com”. I should then be able to post a comment here. BUT JUST FOR EXAMPLE PURPOSES…If for some reason, I still couldn’t post a comment, I would look at the other 10 scripts your website lists and decide which other one(s) I might need to allow, also, and continue allowing one by one until I could actually post.
    …Once I began getting used to seeing the same scripts over & over again, I became accustomed as to which scripts were allegedly safe ones.

    A BIG HELP “for me”:
    How to check whether or not website scripts are “allegedly” safe…
    I do sometimes get stumped after I “think” I allowed all the correct scripts to run but find I still can’t use the website properly. In that case, NoScript assists with that, too…EXAMPLE:
    Another script displaying on your website is “googlesyndication.com”. If I would be unfamiliar with it, in order to check it out…
    (A) I left click on NoScript, and then use my mouse and “middle click” on “googlesyndication.com”
    (this opens up information about “googlesyndication.com” in a new tab for me).
    (B) There is currently a list of 5 websites there to help assess security & privacy trustworthiness of the websites whose scripts you want to check out; the 5 hyperlinks are as follows:
    (1) WOT Scorecard
    (2) McAfee SiteAdvisor rating
    (3) Webmaster Tips Site Information
    (4) Safe Browsing Diagnostic
    (5) hpHost Report
    …In the beginning, I was nervous and so I always clicked on all hyperlinks to see what each had to say, but now I find that if I can’t remember a certain website’s trustworthiness, I usually end up selecting only one of those 5 hyper links.
    …Anyway, if the reviews give good ratings, I then left-click on “temporarily allow” the script(s) to run.
    …”IF” the reviews are “bad”, I don’t allow the script(s) to run, and if necessary, I abandon the website.
    …HOWEVER, there have been just a few times there were “no ratings” yet, and depending on how badly I wanted to work with that website, I would decide then whether or not to take a “shot in the dark” and allow the script to run (and live dangerously!).

    NOTE: This all sounds like it must take a lot of time, but it only takes a “few seconds” (a couple of clicks)…honest! (I just happen to be long-winded!)

    Of note is I go to YouTube a lot and I quickly learned that in order to have more access to the website than simply watching a video, I needed to allow both “youtube.com” AND “ytimg.com” to run…so those 2 scripts were very easy to quickly remember!

    I happen to have Windows7, which came with Internet Explorer 8, and then IE9 was sent to me, also…but I have never used Internet Explorer since I switched to using Firefox 4 years ago. Why? Because it doesn’t have NoScript!

    Voila, I’m finished…finally! (I hope I didn’t put U to sleep!)

    P.S. Of note is that in addition to AdblockPlus, Better Privacy, & NoScript, I use Avast antivirus (the free app), and this has saved me many times; I LUV Avast, too. I also use Superantispyware (on-demand), Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, SpywareBlaster, and CCleaner. Finally, I “dis-allow” ALL cookies (except for a handful I’ve marked as exceptions). Then if a website needs one, I specifically allow it for the session only. When I first began routinely doing that, I was amazed how many websites actually don’t even ask for a cookie. Am I overly protective of myself…am I sort of “paranoid”? Perhaps…but they all work well with each other & for 4 years, they’ve treated me like a queen! [THE END..."honest"!]

    • Don’t worry Dee. If I expect my readers to read through my long blog posts (which most of them are), then I expect nothing less in the comment section! But yes, congratulations on having one of the longest comments on my blog!

      Anyways, I’m glad and thankful for you taking the time to clarify things. At the moment, I’ve mainly switched over to Google Chrome and NoScript is not available for that browser. However, I did find something remotely similar in an extension called NotScripts. However though, it’s nowhere as reliable as NoScript from what I remembered when I was still using Firefox. I think I will give NoScript another try. I’ve begun using StumbleUpon a lot more now to find interesting and new websites to visit and due to it taking me to never-before-heard-of websites, NoScript can definitely be of help there. I remembered a security analyst saying that NoScript can help protect you from certain attacks even if the extension was disabled within Firefox. Crazy stuff.

      I’m just glad there are actually people like you out there that takes security seriously! Paranoid and security pretty much goes hand in hand in my opinion. But if something works for you, I really don’t see what the problem is.

  5. Hi! I tried Ghostery a long time ago and really liked it, but I stopped using it when it was sold to an “advertising business”!

    My web browser is Firefox and I use NoScript (and AdblockPlus). I am absolutely no technical genius whatsoever, and when I tried NoScript for the first time, it only took me a few minutes to change my mind and get rid of it. It “appeared” too complicated for me. However, I had read so very much about how great it was and so a few days later, I gave it another chance. I forced myself to learn the basics and not too long afterwards, I was thrilled that I had stayed with it! NoScript is truly amazing and I think every browser should be automatically equipped with it. Once I discovered (by hit & miss) that instead of selecting “allow” for a certain script, I chose “temporarily allow”…and that means it is only allowed on that particular website for that session only, and when I return to that website later sometime, I can again simply click “temporarily allow”. For “me”, that is the way I choose to do it because it makes me feel safer. Anyway, this is my two cents worth and I hope it is of some benefit to anyone who might happen to read my comment. Again, NoScript is truly wonderful, and I’m so glad I gave it a second chance…or rather, gave “me” a second chance!

    • I’m glad you like NoScript. I just wish more users would adopt that attitude. You’re basically describing what I’m believing to be the expected experience of NoScript for a lot of users. Many of them will have no idea just what the heck is going on and will no doubt give up after a few minutes or so. I’m glad you stuck with it and gave it another go. Ghostery in my opinion can never compete with NoScript in terms of sheer awesomeness (things that it can block) and I don’t think that it ever claims to be. I just find it useful because many times, I don’t need a plugin that can block every single element on a website.

      You’ve just also described why I think NoScript can be useless in many situations where you “temporarily” allow access. Malicious scripts don’t need to run twice or more to infect your computer. Just allowing it to run once is enough. A user who is dead set on visiting a website only to find it hindered by NoScript will no doubt temporarily make an exception for that site to have the extension disabled. Sometimes, that is all that’s needed to get infected. Nevertheless, I can’t deny the usefulness of NoScript. It’s just that I stand by what I said in that the extension is only as useful as the user using it allows it to be.

  6. Shane Rutter says:

    I think no script is built for the power user and the main point to it is to stop all JavaScript from running without being white listed, as I’m a web developer I know what I can permanently white list and if in doubt I just use the white list this whole website temporarily.

    I found when using adblocker and some other Addons my Firefox memory usage was exstreamly high sometimes at 1.6gb

    • Yups, power users. Try explaining using NoScript to a casual user and I’m sure it will be a nightmare. The problem I see with NoScript is when a user goes to an unfamiliar website. Because of the many elements NoScript can block, the website won’t function as it normally does. The user will then whitelist or unblock that website. At that point, what’s the use of using NoScript in the first place if a user will just whitelist every site they come across? Granted, I am sure NoScript still protects a user from certain malicious elements even on a whitelisted domain and that is one of the main reason I like about NoScript.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is in order to really benefit from NoScript, a user really has to be diligent when it comes to browser security.

  7. Shane Rutter says:

    I my self use no script add on which stops most advertisement and tracking cookies. In my opinion if you are using no script correctly you shouldn’t ever have any issues with tracking cookies, advertisement or browser viruses.

    It’s practly a virus / adware / spyware blocker for your browser if used correctly.

    • The problem I have with NoScript is that it’s ‘too’ powerful. Many times a website just won’t function correctly with NoScript installed and then I have to whitelist it and even go to the extreme of having to launch that website in a different browser to make sure it works and by that time, I might as well not have the addon installed at all. Right now, I am using a combination of AdBlock Plus, Ghostery and Flashblock in Firefox for manual control.

      There is no doubt that NoScript is the ultimate browser security addon but I personally find it too restricting. I haven’t used it in a long while but I might be tempted to try it once again.

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