The Best Browser Add-ons for Privacy, Security, Productivity

Browser add-ons or extension are basically a small piece of software that can be used to customize your web browser, including user interface modifications, password management, ad blocking, cookie management, and so much more. A secure web browser can be extended easily with various add-ons that can dramatically improve your …

Browser add-ons or extension are basically a small piece of software that can be used to customize your web browser, including user interface modifications, password management, ad blocking, cookie management, and so much more.

A secure web browser can be extended easily with various add-ons that can dramatically improve your privacy, security, and productivity.

There are lots of browser add-ons available for pretty much all the web browser on web browser add-ons / extensions stores:

Microsoft Edge also has their own Add-ons store, however, pretty much all add-ons from Chrome Web Store would work just fine, as Edge is based on Chromium project.

Regardless of the web browser you use, add-ons can greatly improve the way your browser behaves — They make your browser “smarter” and allows you to do more with the browser than you could before.

Browser Fingerprinting

Before you go ahead, and install an add-on, you should consider your browser’s fingerprint (or device fingerprint).

Fingerprinting is a tracking technique capable of identifying individual users based on their browser and device settings, which was initially developed for security purposes.

Every time you visit a web page, your browser voluntarily sends information about its configuration like OS, browser type, available fonts, screen resolution, add-ons and a lot more which essentially make up your fingerprint.

The problem is that if this combination of information is unique, it will facilitate identification without any tracking tools like cookies.

You can check for browser fingerprinting by visiting Cover Your Tracks (formerly Panopticlick). I have written extensively about Device/Browser Fingerprinting, and it’s prevention.

More is not always better. You don’t need to use every add-on recommending here, the more add-ons you add, the unique your browser fingerprint gets.

Browser Add-ons for Privacy, Security, Productivity

Alright, enough intro let’s get into the good stuff, I will be listing these add-ons in no particular order, choose the one that fits your needs, while keeping the browser fingerprint warning in mind.

Most of the add-ons listed below are free and open source, and can be downloaded and installed from the extension / add-ons store of your browser:

Other browsers like Microsoft Edge, Brave browser, GNU IceCat are based either on Chromium or Firefox, which means add-ons can be downloaded and installed from these browser extension stores.

uBlock Origin

uBlock Origin, not to be confused with uBlock.org, is a free, open source, light-weight wide-spectrum blocker which blocks all kinds or ads, trackers and malware sites.

It blocks ads through its support of the Adblock Plus filter syntax, and extends the syntax to work with custom rules and filters.

The advanced mode allows uBlock Origin to work in default-deny mode, which mode will cause all 3rd-party network requests to be blocked by default, unless allowed by the user.

uBlock Origin, by default, enables EasyList, EasyPrivacy, Peter Lowe’s, Online Malicious URL Blocklist and uBlock Origin’s own lists. Many more lists are readily available to block trackers, analytics, and more. Hosts files are also supported.

And, unlike other so-called “Ad Blockers” it doesn’t have any Monetization Strategy like “Acceptable Ads Program”.

It also makes your browsing experience much faster as you won’t be loading a lot of junk every time you open a web page, and hence saving on bandwidth.

HTTPS Everywhere

HTTPS Everywhere is an open source add-on by Electronic Frontier Foundation that rewrites normal HTTP connection requests to HTTPS (encrypted version of HTTP) wherever possible.

HTTPS is the secure, encrypted version of HTTP, the foundation of all communications on web. You can check if a website is using HTTPS or not by looking at URL, a green padlock followed by “https://” in your browser’s address bar is the way to go.

It only works on sites that already support HTTPS on their server’s side so you’ll have to keep an eye on your address bar or you can just turn on “Encrypt All Sites Eligible” from the HTTPS Everywhere’s icon.

Turning Encrypt All Sites Eligible will prompt you whenever it finds a website that isn’t using HTTPS, and you get to choose to whether to proceed or not.

Most web browsers have started implementing this functionality in the browser itself, the add-on will be discontinued soon.

Decentraleyes

Decentraleyes is a very innovative open source add-on that works by impersonating a CDN on your device locally. Emulates CDNs locally hence preventing tracking via Content Delivery Networks.

When you visit a website, your browser connects to zillions of “Content Delivery Networks” like Google Fonts, Cloudflare, Facebook, and others to get things like Fonts, CSS, JavaScript, etc necessary to load the website.

These CDNs are hosted all over the world to facilitate faster browsing, but they also track you as you are constantly making connections to these servers, allowing them to build an accurate tracking profile on you.

With Decentraleyes installed, when your browser tries to make connection to a CDN to download say jQuery or bootstrap, it will check if you already have it and then serve the file from its cache.

Cookie AutoDelete

Cookie AutoDelete is a great add-on that lets you control your cookies — small, often encrypted text files, located in browser directories that are used by websites to track and help you navigate the website efficiently.

It is open source and automatically deletes cookies as soon as the tab closes, domain changes, browser restarts, or a combination of those events, basically any tracking cookies that are not needed.

You can also whitelist or clear cookies for a domain and much more, it was inspired by another, now defunct add-on called Self Destructing Cookies.

Privacy Badger

Privacy Badger is another great add-on by Electronic Frontier Foundation, that blocks “Invisible Trackers” by analyzing trackers and ads that violate the principle of user consent.

It is open source and block advertisers from loading any more content in your browser if an advertiser seems to be tracking you across multiple websites without your permission.

Privacy Badger learns to block unnecessary tracking across different websites by locally keeping track of what is seen in the wild, while traditional ad blockers like uBlock Origin use a predefined list of ads and trackers to block them.

ClearURLs

ClearURLs is a fantastic open source add-on that automatically removes tracking elements from URLs to help protect your privacy when browse through the Internet.

Many websites use tracking elements in the URL (e.g. https://example.com?utm_source=newsletter1&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=sale) to mark your online activity, which isn’t necessary for a website to be displayed, and only used for tracking you.

ClearURLs remove all of that unnecessary elements from URLs, it works on all kinds of websites from Amazon to search engines like Google. It also has a built-in tool to clean up multiple URLs at once.

User-Agent Switcher and Manager

User-Agent Switcher and Manager lets you spoof your browser’s User-Agent string, making it harder for websites to track you and deliver distinct content.

It is open source and spoofs your browser type and operating system by overwriting the navigator.userAgent string to return a custom string provided by the user, and altering the “User-Agent” header that is sent with each request.

You can set per-site user-agent strings, and there is also an option to randomize user-agent strings.

Firefox Multi-Account Container

Firefox Multi-Account Containers is a great add-on by Mozilla that lets you keep parts of your online life separated into color-coded tabs and preserve your privacy.

It is open source and is only available on Firefox that isolates your work, shopping or personal browsing without having to clear your history, log in and out, or use multiple browsers.

Firefox Multi-Account Containers works by separating website storage into tab-specific containers so that cookies downloaded by one container are not available to other containers.

Even though chrome doesn’t have this add-on, you can separate your online activities by using Profiles — click on the profile icon in the top-right corner to use them.

NoScript Security Suite

NoScript Security Suite is a powerful scripts blocker that uses “ClearClick Technology” to protect you against XSS, cross-zone DNS rebinding / CSRF attacks, and Clickjacking attempts.

It is open source and is the only add-on that comes bundled with Tor Browser that allows you to run potentially malicious web content only from sites you trust and protect you against XSS other web security exploits.

NoScript uses unique whitelist based preemptive script blocking approach that prevents exploitation of security vulnerabilities (known, such as Meltdown or Spectre, and even not known yet!) with no loss of functionality.

It is recommended by all kinds of security experts like Edward Snowden, Douglas Crockford, and many other tech publications.

uMatrix

uMatrix is another open source add-on by the same developer behind uBlock Origin that lets you filter net request according to source, destination and type.

It is a point-and-click matrix-based firewall, with many privacy-enhancing tools that you can use to block scripts, iframes, ads, etc.

uMatrix gives you full control of you where your browser is allowed to connect which might be an overkill for normal users as it can break websites if not used correctly.

Terms of Service; Didn’t Read

Term of Service; Didn’t Read is a great add-on that believes “I have read and agree to the Terms of Service” is the biggest lie on the web, and wants to fix it by grading websites based on their terms of service agreements and privacy policies.

It is an open source and community driven add-on that provides short summaries of these terms of service agreements. The analysis and ratings are published transparently by a community of reviewers.

Snowflake

Snowflake is a WebRTC pluggable transport for Tor that turns your browser into a proxy that connects Tor users in censored regions to the Tor Network.

If you have an uncensored connection, running this extension volunteers your connection to be used as a Snowflake proxy to help users unable to connect to the Tor network.

Your IP will not be visible to the sites users visit using your proxy, as this extension will not make you an exit node. If your access to the Tor network is blocked, this extension will not assist you, and you should use the Tor Browser instead. This add-on does not work with WebRTC disabled.

LanguageTool

LanguageTool is an open source proofreading software for English, French, German, Polish, Russian, and more than 20 other languages.

It requires no registrations, and works on pretty much every website i tested on, you can install it on your desktop for offline use, it is also available for LibreOffice, Thunderbird, VS Code, and much more.

I recommend Language Tool over Grammarly as it is open source, feature-rich and privacy-respecting.

Dark Reader

Dark Reader as the name suggests is an open source add-on that turns on Dark Mode for all the websites you visit, by inverts brightness of web pages and aims to reduce eyestrain while browsing the web.

This eye-care extension enables night mode creating dark themes for websites on the fly. It inverts bright colors making them high contrast and easy to read at night.

You can easily adjust brightness, contrast, sepia filter, dark mode, font settings and ignore-list.

Search by Image

Search by Image is a great add-on that lets you do an image search from top image search engines like Google, Bing, Yandex, Baidu and TinEye. Just right-click any image on the web to pull up a context menu with useful reverse image search engines.

It is open source and has five search modes including search & upload, capture, upload, select and by URL. You can search with a single engine, or all enabled ones, detect images on the page, search for the current video frame, and much more.

OneTab

OneTab is my favorite tab management add-on that convert all the tabs to a list to reduce browser memory and get them back when i need.

It is very lightweight, doesn’t require any registrations and works completely offline. You can even share your tabs to other people by converting it into a web page.

Tabliss

Tabliss transforms your new tab with beautiful backgrounds, custom quick links, search box, weather, to-do reminders, and much more.

It offers hundreds of customizations options to create a new tab page that unique to you, you can select background images from Unsplash, GIPHY, plain colors, gradients or from your own images.

Tabliss is lightweight and open source and has lots of widgets from which you can choose from to customize your new tab just the way you like.

Web Archives

Web Archives is another great add-on by the same developer behind Search by Image, that lets you view archived and cached versions of web pages from search engines, like Wayback Machine, Archive.is, Google, Bing, Yandex, Gigablast, WebCite, Sogou, Memento, Naver and Yahoo Japan.

It is open source and can come really handy when you are trying to find information that may have been deleted or when the website is offline.

You can search for these archives from the right-click context menu, the browser toolbar, or the address bar in case of a server error.

SingleFile

SingleFile as the name suggests let you save the entire web page in a single HTML file with all the images and styling intact.

It is open source, lightweight and has lots of features like processing multiple tabs in one click and save, Annotating and saving the page, and much more.

SingleFile also lets you automatically save pages every time after being loaded to your computer or Google Drive with the option to have a proof of existence by linking the SHA256 of the pages into the blockchain.

Swift Selection Search

Swift Selection Search is a simple Firefox add-on that lets you quickly search for some text in a page using your favorite search engines.

It is open source and lets you search for selected text with multiple search engines like Google, YouTube, Wikipedia, etc.

You can easily add new search engines for the popup and context search, change the appearance of the icons, what happens when you click them, when/where the popup appears, whether to auto copy text on selection, etc.

Flagfox

Flagfox displays a country flag depicting the location of the current website’s server and provides a multitude of tools such as site safety checks, whois, translation, similar sites, validation, URL shortening, and more.

You can get a detailed map showing the city the server is in and other useful information such as its local time and ISP by clicking on the flag icon, there are other great features too like Whois and DNS information lookup, quick URL shortening, and much more.

Impulse Blocker

Impulse Blocker is an open source add-on that makes it easy to block distracting websites you want to avoid. Just list the sites you want Impulse Blocker to pause or completely avoid.

You can add easily add websites and block them for anywhere between five minutes to three hours.

Tomato Clock

Tomato Clock is a simple and open source add-on for managing your productivity. It lets you break down your work into 25 minute ‘Tomato’ intervals separated by short breaks.

You can set customizable timer lengths, get browser notifications, and easily track your work sessions.

Additional Resources

Mozilla’s Recommended Extensions program — Mozilla has a recommended extension program that lists extensions that meet the highest standards of security, functionality, and user experience. Firefox staff thoroughly evaluate each extension before it receives recommended status.

Most of the extensions mentioned above are part of Mozilla’s Recommended Extensions program, and are free and open source unless mentioned otherwise. Most of these add-ons will work on all of your browsers except a few that are made for Mozilla Firefox.

Add-ons for Privacy, Security, Productivity Conclusion

Add-ons are a great way to achieve the perfect amount of privacy and security that you desire. If you are having trouble installing add-ons, check out these links for your browser: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, Brave. I hope you enjoyed reading about these add-ons that are available for Firefox, Chrome, Edge, Safari, and others.

That’s all Folks!

I will be updating this page frequently with more privacy and security tools and information.

Photo by Mike van Schoonderwalt from Pexels

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