Whenever you click on a link on a web page to open another one in the same browser, referrer information are sent to the linked site.
You can verify this for yourself by visiting our IP lookup script which reveals your current IP address and other information including the referer (it is a misspelling that is used in this way in the HTTP specification).
The referrer field was designed to provide the linked web property with information about where a user originated from.
Sites use referrer information for a variety of purposes. Analytics comes to mind but there are other purposes such as hotlinking protection or verification (if you don't have the right referrer, you are not allowed access).
Some services add sensitive information to the referrer field. It became known recently that the Healthcare.gov includes personal data in the referrer. According to the news article, the site's referrer may include information about a person's age, income, zip code, smoking habit or pregnancy.
Mozilla announced yesterday that it added support for the so-called meta referrer tag to Firefox Beta which provides developers with options to control referrer information on their sites.
Reliance on developers to get it right (who did not in first place) is probably not the best option from a user perspective.
Internet users can control referrer information on their end, and this guide looks at how that is done in popular browsers such as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.
Attention: Modifying the referrer may render some sites unusable. Some extensions below support whitelisting which you can use in this case to override the default behavior.
Firefox users have the widest range of options when it comes to controlling referer information in the browser.
Besides through extensions, Firefox users can configure referrer information right on the browser's about:config page as well.
Google Chrome users can install browser extensions (which may also work in Opera and other Chromium-based browsers) to control referrer behavior.
You have several options to control referrer information without installing extensions or manipulating browser settings.
One of the easier options for links is to copy a link and paste it in a private browsing window or another browser to make a direct request.
Services like NullRefer can be used to replace the referrer so that it is not sent when you load sites on the Internet.
Now You: How do you handle referer information on your end?Advertisement
Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.