The Privacyfix Healthbar is like your privacy companion, watching out for privacy risks as you visit different sites across the web. Today we’ve given Healthbar a whole new look, and added some seriously improved features. Here’s the low-down:
My favorite new feature in the Healthbar tells you when the website you’re on is enabling companies that use personal information, like your email address, to target ads. By way of background, the vast majority of ad trackers promise to operate anonymously, gathering profile information and applying it to ad targeting without ever using identification information like your name or email address. Many people are comfortable with this kind of anonymous tracking, perhaps because they like more relevant ads as long as no personal data is involved.
However, a whole new breed of trackers is taking things to a new level: they gather a profile that is directly linked to your email address or other identifying information. This profile might include offline data, like what you’ve bought with a grocery store loyalty card that is also tied to your email, or demographic information culled from a public database. In this new technique, websites make their registration data (usually email addresses) available to these trackers and allow them to lay down a browser cookie that is matched up with that email-based profile. The site gets paid for the use of your email address, and the same cookie can now be used across sites to target ads to you. If just reading about this practice makes you uncomfortable, you’re not alone, particularly if the site never mentioned that your email address would be used in this way.
With the new Healthbar, now you can see when we’ve found these more aggressive trackers on the site you’re visiting. If you have ad tracking blocked, these companies won’t be able to set or read cookies in your browser. But remember, when you see that alert, your should still twice about giving the site your email address (or ask them to delete it, if you already have). Even better, send them a note asking why they participate in this practice.
Direct widget and blocking controls
By popular demand, Privacyfix now allows you to control social widgets and tracking directly from the Healhbar interface. Since blocking social widgets inevitably interferes with content on some websites, it’s now even easier to create a whitelist exception from blocking for any site where you want to allow widgets to operate. Like always, we leave it up to you to decide the privacy choices you want to make.
In this update, we updated the way that we measure your privacy risk on the site you’re visiting, in order to incorporate new readings. Out of a total of 15 possible points (dots at left), here’s how we score:
Remember, the Healthbar isn’t just about showing you our privacy ratings for a site — it’s really about your level of privacy risk given the site’s ratings and your own settings. Play around with the Healthbar controls for a minute and you’ll quickly see that we update your risk reading in real-time. Just don’t forget to leave yourself protected when you’re done!
So you can know just how hard Privacyfix is working for you, it now keeps count of the estimated number of tracking attempts that have been blocked. We base this on the average number of trackers our panel tends to see on pages from the site. Unfortunately, given the growing pace of tracking, we had to allow space for eight digits — that’s right, tens of millions of tracking attempts. Sigh.
Behind the scenes, the Healthbar update now uses an entirely new method for getting site data to check your risk. The benefit to you is faster loading time from site to site. The benefit to us is fewer calls to our server and better scalability. Win-win.
Do you have feedback for us on the new Healthbar, or an idea for the next version? We’re all ears.