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Author Topic: Quick Review: Ghostery - Best blocker I've used since JunkBuster  (Read 7137 times)
IainB
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« on: September 04, 2011, 11:53:37 PM »

I have been interested in maintaining my web privacy for years, wishing to defend myself from the continuing and increasing assault on that privacy, from the advertisers and the Google and other ad-click giants.
So, yesterday out of interest, I downloaded the Ghostery add-on that works in:
  • Firefox
  • Safari
  • Chrome/Chromium
  • Opera
  • IE
(I am using it in Firefox and Chromium.)

I was so impressed with the initial results after installing it that I posted a review and gave it a 5-star vote:
Quote
Best blocker I've used since JunkBuster - Rated 5 out of 5 stars.
Great add-on! Since 1997 I had used JunkBuster to keep the junk out of my browsing and minimise bandwidth utilisation. It worked very well, up until the time when the JunkBuster project was abandoned. I later moved to Ad-Block Plus, then added NoScript, but they were never quite enough, and I have long missed having the fine degree of control over my web browsing that JunkBuster was able to provide me with.
However, with the addition of Ghostery, I think I have nearly got back to the degree of control I had in 1997 - 15 years ago.
Sadly, that is *NOT* a measure of progress.   :-(

You can see a summary of the Ghostery functionality on the website and the the settings tab for the add-on.
I am requesting that the developers consider adding some of the JunkBuster-like functionality to Ghostery.

JunkBuster: If anyone reading this is wondering why JB might be such a good comparison, it was because JB enabled you to generally reduce/stop the annoying useless content "noise" appearing on web pages in your browser and to selectively tell the web server to NOT send various items that would otherwise consume bandwidth (thus reducing bandwidth consumption).

It did this by using regex expressions and proxy technology to (for example):
  • Selectively block annoying or unwanted or bandwidth-consuming images, ad banners, advertisements. (So you could always see the ads you wanted to see.) This saved annoyance and bandwidth.   Thmbsup
  • Selectively block annoying or unwanted or privacy-infringing URLS or domains.   Thmbsup
  • Selectively block cookies.    Thmbsup
  • Accept cookies and quarantine them all in a "cookie jar", then periodically swap filled cookie-jars with other people, by posting them to a public forum set up for that purpose. (Thus defeating the purpose of cookies altogether.)   Wink
  • Send out other people's cookies from their imported cookie jar.   Wink
  • Generate "wafers" (dummy cookies) and send them out to sites that requested a cookie.   Wink
  • Insert false information about your brower or set a message - e.g., "Do not track me" into the http header - e.g., my http header declared that I was using an obsolete Apple Mac with the obsolete Mosaic browser.   Wink
  • ...and so on.

For interest, you can get a copy of the last known version of JunkBuster (executable and code released under GPU GP Licence - runs on Linux and as a DOS-based proxy for Windows), together with complete FAQ files, from here: JunkBuster 2.0.2 - ijb20.zip
Apparently, the JunkBuster client proxy did not play well with the changing SSL technology, and development petered out. The developers suggested you tried out Guideon (now defunct), then Ad-Block and/or NoScript (I forget which, but I have them both anyway).

The JunkBuster.com website now says:
Quote
Sorry, the Junkbusters.com web site is no longer maintained.
Related information may be found at the following sites:
    The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) - http://www.epic.org/
    Privacy International - http://www.privacy.org/
    Privacy Rights Clearinghouse - http://www.privacyrights.org/
« Last Edit: September 05, 2011, 01:03:36 AM by IainB; Reason: Add the reference to functionality request for Ghostery. » Logged
iphigenie
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« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2011, 03:11:56 AM »

i used ghostery as a warning tool about tracking, havent noticed the blocking options...
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IainB
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« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2011, 05:12:52 AM »

@iphigenie: Yes, when you look on its options page, you realise that its blocking functionality and resource are quite extensive. They seem to work too, so far.
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IainB
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« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2011, 09:13:09 PM »

This blocker seems to be working quite well, with no hiccoughs so far.    Thmbsup
Just noticed that on this DC page Ghostery senses and blocks:
  • AddtoAny
  • Google Analytics

(Does that cause any problem or create an issue for DC forum site management, I wonder?)
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xtabber
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« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2012, 10:57:42 PM »

I've started using Ghostery in the browser I use for most ordinary browsing (Opera) and have set it to block all tracking elements.  The results have exceeded my expectations.  It has pretty much stopped any advertising from following me across multiple sites, such as political ads on news sites and ads for competitors I have recently visited on shopping sites.

Since you can selectively enable or disable any individual tracking elements, I have considered unblocking Google Analytics to allow sites like Donation Coder to keep count of unique visitors. I'm just not sure I trust Google enough to do so yet.

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iphigenie
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« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2012, 02:21:14 AM »

On Opera I noticed the occasional unwanted blockage on redirects, usually links from newsletters. Disabling ghostery makes the link work. That's a side effect of Ghostery plugging in Opera's content filters

Iain - you can allow things through for specific sites, either because it is needed or because you want to let that particular site have stats
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Stoic Joker
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« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2012, 06:54:05 AM »

Hm...
Quote from: Ghostery FAQ
Q. Will Ghostery affect my browser performance?

A. Ghostery initiates a scan and decision for several types of page elements, and in some cases, this scan may represent a slight increase in page load times. However, if users choose to block page scripts, our lab research suggests that pages load faster on average.

Can anyone confirm, deny, or comment on this??


[edit] Damn that's a zippy install!
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IainB
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« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2012, 07:01:07 AM »

...you can allow things through for specific sites, either because it is needed or because you want to let that particular site have stats
Thanks for that tip. I had left everything "ON" in Ghostery. Must spend some time fiddling with site-specifics now. ArsTechnica would like that, I think.
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iphigenie
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« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2012, 03:34:25 AM »

Hm...
Quote from: Ghostery FAQ
Q. Will Ghostery affect my browser performance?
A. Ghostery initiates a scan and decision for several types of page elements, and in some cases, this scan may represent a slight increase in page load times. However, if users choose to block page scripts, our lab research suggests that pages load faster on average.
Can anyone confirm, deny, or comment on this??
[edit] Damn that's a zippy install!

I never noticed much difference in Opera - and i love installing extensions which do not require restarting the browser (hear that, firefox???)
I didnt notice any difference in the other browsers either but they are back up browsers so I would not necessarily have a feel enough to notice
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iphigenie
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« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2012, 03:43:55 AM »

On Opera I noticed the occasional unwanted blockage on redirects, usually links from newsletters. Disabling ghostery makes the link work. That's a side effect of Ghostery plugging in Opera's content filters

Clarifying this one as it took me a while to figure out - mostly because it is rare and therefore first happened quite a while after I installed Ghostery.

- clicking on a link in an email newsletter, the page opens in Opera
- you see a message from Opera's content blocker telling you that the content has been blocked, with the usual hint as to how to open the settings and check the rules
- if you look into the blocker rules, you don't find anything that matches the URL in question (in my case it was obvious since I had no rules set up)

it seems that due to the way ghostery hooks up in the content blocking service (which is the right thing to do) means that sometimes ghostery trigger a block of a page that is a redirect to a further page.

Because ghostery is meant to happen on the bug elements loaded in a page it doesnt show any additional information (since you don't see these blocked elements) and just lets the normal Opera mechanism operate.

So when it triggers on a full page that is a redirect from one of these tracking/analytics email (because the whole page is a bug, in a way) you have no indication ghostery was involved.

It happens very rarely and it might puzzle others and now they might find this thread (also posted that on Opera's forums back in November)
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iphigenie
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« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2012, 03:52:26 AM »

...you can allow things through for specific sites, either because it is needed or because you want to let that particular site have stats
Thanks for that tip. I had left everything "ON" in Ghostery. Must spend some time fiddling with site-specifics now. ArsTechnica would like that, I think.

On Opera Ghostery operates via the normal content blocking mechanism, so what is available is simply the right click standard option "exempt this site from blocking".

On Firefox there is an option called "whitelist domain"

On chrome you either go in the full settings and add URLs in the text box at the bottom, or, when on a site, click on "edit blocking options" and click the "dont block"  option

In each case ghostery uses the built-in blocking mechanism and enhances it to only apply on in page elements and use its additional rules, but it lets the normal mechanism do the blocking

I suspect it is a performance choice to only allow blocking/unblocking of a bug everywhere, or a site for every bug.
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