Latest Privacy Badger eliminates some Google tracking

Martin Brinkmann
Oct 5, 2018

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released a new version of the organization's Privacy Badger extension that is designed to improve user privacy while using desktop browsers it supports.

The new version introduces support for eliminating some tracking that Google does on some of its properties when links are activated by users.

The EFF launched a Privacy Badger update in May 2018 that took care of link tracking on Facebook, and this new update does the same for Google's link tracking mechanisms.

The organization notes that the initial release works on Google Search, Google Hangouts, and Google Docs sites only at the time. While that covers three popular Google services on the Internet, it does not cover others such as Gmail or Google Plus.

Google uses several methods when it comes to link tracking on its properties. These methods differ not only from product to product but depend also on the browser that is used to access the content.

Chrome users who use Google Search may notice after analyzing the source carefully that Google uses the "ping" attribute to receive information about link clicks on Google Search.

The ping informs Google about the link that the user clicked on in Google Search and includes extra information besides that.

In Firefox, Google uses a mousedown event instead and not ping to track links. Basically, what Google does is replace the URL that it displays to users when they hover over a link in Firefox with a Google link that redirects users to the destination. Since users are directed through a Google link to the destination the company knows about the link that users clicked on.

On Hangouts and Google Docs, Google uses a similar method to send users to the linked destination through a Google link so that it can track user clicks and the context of the clicks.

Google obfuscates the fact that it tracks links in several ways, e.g. by displaying the "real" destination of a link to the user on mouse over but redirecting users through a Google link to the destination.

The new Privacy Badger takes care of link tracking on these three Google properties automatically.

Closing Words

Privacy Badger is updated regularly with new tracking protections. While that is great, one has to realize that it will never protect against online tracking completely. If you are particularly worried about being tracked by giant Internet companies, try alternatives such as Startpage or DuckDuckGo instead of Google Search.

Now Read: check out Privacy Possum, a powerful anti-tracking extension

Latest Privacy Badger eliminates some Google tracking
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Latest Privacy Badger eliminates some Google tracking
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released a new version of the organization's Privacy Badger extension that blocks Google link tracking.
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  1. Charles said on October 8, 2018 at 9:28 pm

    You folks are very search educated compared with non-techie me. I’ve posed this problem to a number of forums like and have yet to learn any way I can search with valid search results when I request that “spaces” be considered as a value.
    For example: I want to search for a char. string that ends or starts with some number of spaces like ” dog ” and I DO want the search to consider the spaces I type prior to or after the word “dog”. Search on Bing and Google or even Cortana tosses out my extra spaces as if I had entered “dog” without the spaces.
    Do any of you know how to make the search work as I would like?

    1. John Fenderson said on October 8, 2018 at 10:46 pm

      @Charles: “Do any of you know how to make the search work as I would like?”

      I don’t think you can with Google searches. Google made the decision quite a while ago to no longer pay attention to exactly what your searching for and instead try to interpret what you meant with your search terms instead.

      I don’t know about the other search engines.

  2. Jonas said on October 6, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    One good thing about Google’s redirection link is that websites can’t know what you searched for (based on the referrer). (If I understand it correctly – does the referrer actually include the URL query string ?)

    Does PrivacyBadger strip the referrer ?

  3. I Am Not A Robot said on October 6, 2018 at 2:47 am

    How do I eliminate Google Recaptcha?

    1. Klaas Vaak said on October 6, 2018 at 9:30 am

      @I AM Not A Robot: there are Greasemonkey scripts for that.

  4. Chen said on October 6, 2018 at 2:05 am

    Hi Martin, could you tell me what are other two extensions you use in your chrome browser with picture illustrated above except ublock origin, Pravicy Badge and Get Crx?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on October 8, 2018 at 9:10 am

      Yes, sorry for the late reply. The first is WebRTC Network Limiter, the second Native Lazy Tabs. I removed WebRTC Network Limiter today as I (finally) realized that uBlock Origin blocks WebRTC from leaking the local IP as well.

  5. Anonymous said on October 5, 2018 at 6:52 pm

    I’m glad I switched to DuckDuckGo + OpenStreeMap + ProtonMail.
    Google is something that stayed in the past.

    1. John Fenderson said on October 5, 2018 at 10:06 pm


      Simply not using Google services does not stop Google from spying on you, though, so defensive measures are still advisable. It looks like Privacy Badger won’t help in that case, though — or maybe it does, I’ve never been clear about what Privacy Badger can and cannot stop.

      1. Klaas Vaak said on October 6, 2018 at 9:29 am

        @John Fenderson: there is always that discussion about the combination uBO with Privacy Badger. The balance in that discussion seems to be that if you use uBO there is no need for PB. I use uBO and have ditched PB.

      2. John Fenderson said on October 8, 2018 at 5:11 pm

        @Klaas Vaak:

        Yes, I followed that discussion. Personally, I use NoScript (the old, good one) and don’t use PB, but was curious about how PB actually worked and what it is capable of addressing. I haven’t been successful in finding a good technical explanation of it, though.

  6. Sebas said on October 5, 2018 at 4:12 pm

    Qwant is good, I prefer Qwant lite without javascript. is good too. This sjw censorship is worrysome.

  7. Klaas Vaak said on October 5, 2018 at 12:02 pm

    While StartPage is far more privay-oriented than Google Search, it still makes use of Google Search by aggregating all SP users’ searches. And Google has now taken it upon itself to censor political searches by doing the ‘thinking’ for people to decide what is fake news and what is not, based on very dubious criteria.

    DuckDuckGo apparently does the same, although that is not talked about so much and I am not sure if there is hard evidence.

    Another search engine that is very privacy-oriented is Qwant. Its search results are very good, and in my use case, good enough for 95% of my searches.

    1. PAtriot said on October 7, 2018 at 10:17 am

      @Klaas Vaak:
      You Putin-parrot pro-Russian bigots all react the same way. Love that rightwing propaganda “MSM” garbage from you and your ilk.

      Just kidding. Just mimicking your venomous verbal diarrhoea lies and BS. I’ve seen your pro-Putin pro-Russian political spewing and venomous verbal diarrhoea lies and BS on here too many times. It’s always the same with you, unfortunately, and I won’t remain long in this pissing contest with an elephant of your size, but your poison does need to be countered at every turn. And klaas, ghacks is really not the place for your political lies and BS. This is a TECH site. And we all need some escape sometimes from the never-ending political shite-messes going on. Please klaas: take your incessant political moaning and whining elsewhere!

      Klaas Vaak on Google: “I am also realistic enough and accept that Google already has info on me, and will, one way or another, continue to collect info on me. My objective is to give access to as little as possible & make it as difficult as possible to get at it.” I agree. That’s the same tack I take, too.

      Klaas said: “BTW, it is remarkable that Liz McIntyre has stayed silent since I asked her a direct question and you addressed her directly. Hmmm.”

      Uh, no, Klaas, it’s not all that “remarkable,” although we get the smarmy insinuation (which amounts to nothing) you’re trying desperately to make about her. I thought that it was already known on here that Liz consults for StartPage, at least I thought that’s what’s already been established in the past in her comments here. And there are likely many reasons for the lack of response: she’s sleeping, enjoying her life, her weekend, etc. Perhaps to satisfy your curiosity you could use one of your favorite search engines instead? Just a thought. Take care, Klaas.

      1. Klaas Vaak said on October 7, 2018 at 11:37 am

        @Patriot: you don’t want a “pissing contest” but that is exactly what you just started. I understand your difficulty accepting certain facts that show your MSM for what it is: garbage.

        And, to deflect from your aversion of facts and love of alternative facts, you turn it into a political discussion, thus abusing Ghacks stealthily.

        I don’t know Liz McIntyre, never came across her comments, but I thank you for pointing out she works for SP, which explains her attempts at diverting from the fact that SP uses Google, which, as Google confirmed itself, is now whoring as a government censor proxy.

        “Perhaps to satisfy your curiosity you could use one of your favorite search engines instead? Just a thought.”
        Which is what I already stated in my 1st comment that I do, so thanks for confirming my other comment that you have nothing to contribute to the discussion here except your verbal diarrhoea, which is spreading a distinct stench.

    2. Peterc said on October 7, 2018 at 5:52 am

      @Klaas Vaak:

      I share your revulsion at Google Search’s “soft” political censorship, which has dramatically cut traffic to many sites (both US and foreign) whose reporting and opinion conflict with US government and business narratives. (@Liz McIntyre: Google has publicly admitted that it does this using subjective criteria, under the guise of suppressing propaganda and fake news. It’s not fundamentally different from what China does, though so far it’s mostly soft censorship through downranking rather than hard censorship through outright exclusion. When your highly relevant site doesn’t show up until the 15th or 20th search-results page, after pages and pages of largely irrelevant results, it amounts to the same thing.)

      Despite this (and Google’s *relentless* tracking), I continually — reluctantly — return to Google Search because their *non*-political search results are still the best of the search engines I’ve tried and because I use it as a calculator and unit converter pretty often. I haven’t tried Qwant for quite some time, so I’ll give it another shot.

      1. Klaas Vaak said on October 7, 2018 at 8:59 am

        @Peterc: when I get some non-political info via Qwant, knowing that there is more or better that is not shown by Qwant, my go-to seach engine is still Google too. I use Firefox that I have tweaked heavily for privacy and security, so tracking should be more difficult, and using a VPN also throws up another barrier.

        I am also realistic enough and accept that Google already has info on me, and will, one way or another, continue to collect info on me. My objective is to give access to as little as possible & make it as difficult as possible to get at it.

        BTW, it is remarkable that Liz McIntyre has stayed silent since I asked her a direct question and you addressed her directly. Hmmm.

    3. Patriot said on October 6, 2018 at 10:29 pm

      I hesitate to wade into thise latest mess from the pro-Russian pro-Putin troll here who usually goes by the name of “Klaas,” but his latest disinformation should be corrected for posterity, especially for anyone who may read these comments in the future.

      I don’t even know if the wise “censoring” of Russian “fake news” disinformation campaigns he alleges Google, Facebook, Twitter, and others to be doing is really happening; we can only hope and pray that it is. That diminished shell of a country, Putin’s Russia, can only enjoy outsized influence in the realm of computer hacking and online disinformation campaigns, and they have had tremendous successes of late, playing a major role in Brexit’s passing, Trump’s election, and the election of other right-wing pro-Russian populists and authoritarians in Poland, Hungary, Italy, etc.

      The so-called “very biased results” he complains about means–if he’s telling the truth–the removal of some Russian disinformation lies. Anyone who finds removing these Russian lies “unacceptable” should use only the Russian Yandex for their searches–that way the Russian lies and disinformation they seem to cherish so much has presumably a better chance of ranking higher in their search results.

      1. Klaas Vaak said on October 7, 2018 at 8:50 am

        1. I have not changed identity, I just changed my profile to show my 1st as well as my last name.
        2. I took RT as an example, knowing that blinkered bigots, who are always prowling around looking to use smear rather than arguments, to kill a discussion. My intuition proved to be correct – not difficult considering that you guys all react the same way.
        3. Apart from RT, other sites that have nothing to do with Russia, such as Consortium News, Truthdig, Information Clearing House, and others that present real news and analysis rather than the MSM garbage that you & your ilk gobble up, are also suffering from this censorship by proxy.
        4. Other people, such as Peterc below, have also noticed the censorship, and have contributed usefully to the discussion, incl. referring to a public comment made by Google about its censorship.

        In conclusion, if you want to have a political argument, I suggest you take your venomous verbal diarrhoea to another site as Ghacks is not set up for that. Oh, and while you visit those other sites, make sure your lies and BS are a little less transparent than what they are here.

    4. Liz McIntyre said on October 6, 2018 at 12:33 am

      Hi Klaas. (and DDG) deliver less biased results because personal information isn’t used to “tailor” results. This helps users break free from the “filter bubble.”

      I encourage websites that feel they are subject to bias to complete a thorough search engine optimization (SEO) evaluation. Without elements like proper page titles and keywords,sites are at at a disadvantage. A website that doesn’t use the language necessary for appropriate indexing by search engine spiders may be ranked lower in search engine results – or may not be listed at all.

      Smaller, less trafficked websites often don’t have someone who understands and attends to SEO like bigger competitors. In addition, they often compete in a very saturated market. Getting SEO savvy could make all the difference.

      I know there are free online automated website evaluators. Maybe someone could recommend good options.

      1. John Fenderson said on October 8, 2018 at 6:32 pm

        @Liz McIntyre: “Smaller, less trafficked websites often don’t have someone who understands and attends to SEO like bigger competitors.”

        True. Also, there are a large (and increasing) number of smaller websites that understand SEO but have given up on it entirely and ignore such considerations, preferring to find their audience through means other than Google search results.

        All of mine fall into that camp.

      2. Klaas Vaak said on October 6, 2018 at 9:27 am

        @Liz McIntyre: I don’t have a website, I am just a regular internet surfer who uses web web search extensively. So something like SEO is not relevant to me.

        You mentioned personal info that isn’t used to tailor results: I am not worried about that with SP or DDG. What I am concerned about is what Google has done: decide what info does not deserve to be ranked high, esp. if it is political and not in line with US policy. Facebook, Twitter and others have similarly climbed on the censure bandwagon.

        SP does not do that as such, but since SP’s results are based 100% on Google, it happens automatically.

        So, Google, and therefore SP, and DDG (to a lesser extent?) deliver very biased results, unacceptable so.

        Qwant, on the other hand, does not do that, and, like I said before, it’s search results are pretty good.

      3. Liz McIntyre said on October 6, 2018 at 5:16 pm

        Hi Klass,

        I challenge you to do some testing on this.

        I’ve looked into claims of bias and have found that bias claims could be made against just about any search engine, depending upon the search done and user interests.

        In 99% of cases I’ve looked into, poor search engine optimization (SEO) is the culprit, rather than bias beyond natural algorithm bias. That may not mean much to you as a surfer, but it should be noted by websites that compete for eyeballs.

        So if you believe a website you support is lower in rank than it should be, try analyzing its SEO. If you find improvements could be made, I encourage you to alert the website owner.

        BTW – I have nothing against Qwant. I’m glad there are multiple private search options available in addition to and DuckDuckGo.

      4. Klaas Vaak said on October 6, 2018 at 6:17 pm

        @Liz McIntyre: when I search for info, I do not support a particular website, I just want to get the relevant info that is out there, and I do not accept a search engine playing the policeman and deciding on my behalf what is good for me and what is not. Google’s search engine does exactly that, e.g. it has even publicly announced it will rank RT to lower levels than what the algorithm would suggest. And it does it for other sites/info too. That kind of behaviour is completely and utterly unacceptable.

        Just out of interest: are you with either StartPage or DDG, or with a different type web search service?

      5. Liz McIntyre said on October 8, 2018 at 6:16 pm

        Hi Klass. I agree with you. Censorship is unacceptable. Unfortunately, most search engines are at the mercy of Google, Yahoo /Bing etc in their decision making. (This removal is a very small number of websites AFAIK, but correct me if I’m wrong. One that comes to mind is Alex Jones infowars.)

        While Qwant has its own crawler, my understanding is its use is quite limited and that Qwant relies on similar sources as DuckDuckGo. (That was the last I heard. If you know more, please let me know. The Qwant website is somewhat cryptic about this.)

        I thought you were referencing bias in another way, which is a search engine purposely ranking an indexed site lower without any justification for its actions. (Not that removing a site is justified.)

        I consult with, but I applaud other private search options, as well. It’s good that we have choice! If one search engine doesn’t give us results, we can query another one.

      6. Klaas Vaak said on October 8, 2018 at 6:45 pm

        @Liz McIntyre: many thanks for replying, which is a pleasant surprise after my spat below with Patriot, who informed me you are with StartPage. I apologise for not knowing you, I had not come across your name here before, in any case not in connection with SP.

        I have found Qwant to be suitable for most of my searches. But if I get unsatisfactory results when I know there should be more, I use Google. Having said that, I should in that case actually use SP instead of Google because SP is anonymous compared with direct Google searches. So I will make that switch.

        Google does rank RT purposely lower, it (Google) has stated so publicly, and for the sole reason of the “Russiagate” affair – Russian meddling in the election. That to me is totally unacceptable, not because it concerns RT, contrary to what Patriot tried to argue, but simply because I do not accept censorship, neither directly nor by proxy, as in this case. And SP’s results are now subject to that same censorship that SP uses Google 100%, as I understand.

        Anyway, thanks again for your feedback, I appreciate it, and it was nice meeting you.

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