Can browser extensions really protect your privacy?

Browser extensions are programmes that extend the functionality of web browsers like Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome and Opera.

Some do wonderful things (like add a moustache to all faces on the web, give you access to an array of web developer tools or simplify terms and conditions) and some are rather less wonderful.

Some of them are also very, very popular indeed with the most popular enjoying quite a few million users each, as this list of the most popular Firefox extensions illustrates.

One breed of extension that seems to be particularly popular are those offering online privacy protection or greater security when browsing.

Adblock Plus claims over 300 million downloads, Ghostery, over 40 million and Web of Trust, over 132 million. Eight of the twenty most popular Firefox addons (at the time of writing) can be categorised as applications that claim to offer some form of enhanced web browsing security or privacy protection.

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Image source: “A Spy’s Spy” by Emory Allen, used under CC BY-NC 2.0 / Original cropped and resized