Today, we released an exciting update to Goodblock that does an even better job of blocking ads protecting your privacy. This post gives a rundown of what changed, as well as some technical details for the coders out there.
Heads up to existing users: because this update requires additional permission, you’ll have to re-enable Goodblock by clicking on the hamburger icon at the top right of your Chrome:
Read on for more info on why Goodblock is asking for these permissions.
New: see how much you’re blocking
This update adds the ability to see how many requests Goodblock is blocking. This will show up as a little badge on the Goodblock icon in your browser bar:
Each request blocked reduces how many ads your browser downloads and how many other people know about your browsing history. On some particularly egregious sites, you might see upwards of 30 requests blocked. On some of the best sites (lookin’ at you, Wikipedia) you might see that Goodblock doesn’t have to block anything at all.
If you want to disable this feature, click the Goodblock icon in your browser bar, go to your Goodblock settings (the gear icon in your Goodblock dropdown menu), and uncheck “Show the number of blocked requests on the icon”.
New: better Chrome privacy protection
By default, Google Chrome isn’t as privacy-friendly as it could be.
With the default settings, Chrome downloads resources—like scripts and pages—before you need them. In other words, Google guesses what you’re going to click on and pre-loads the stuff on that page. This can be good by speeding up how fast some pages load.
However, Google’s pre-loading comes with a serious privacy cost. Every ad company and tracker that gets these pre-loading requests also gets your IP address, and they can learn something about where you’re browsing. The pre-loaded webpages can also access their cookies as if you had actually visited that page, even though Google just thinks you will visit it.
Previously, Goodblock could not stop these “pre-fetching” requests, so all the ad companies and trackers were able to get some info about your browsing. With this update, Goodblock locks down your Chrome privacy by disabling Chrome’s pre-fetching.
New: locking down Chrome’s privacy
This version of Goodblock requires permission to change your Chrome privacy settings, which it uses to prevent page the pre-loading we discussed above.
Because this update requires additional permission, you’ll have to re-enable Goodblock by clicking on the hamburger icon at the top right of your Chrome:
If you’re interested in why ad blockers need these permissions, read our overview of how they’re used. Our goal is always to help you protect your personal data, and now we are happy to say we can do so even better than before.
Technical details behind the privacy changes
In this latest release, Goodblock disables Chrome’s prefetching to ensure your IP address doesn’t leak to untrusted remote servers. To do so, the Goodblock extension now requires the Chrome extension “Privacy” permission.
Goodblock disables the default Chrome setting “Use a prediction service to load pages more quickly”, accessible in chrome://settings/.
Under the hood, Goodblock relies on uMatrix, an excellent project that gives granular control over filtering web requests. A while back, an issue was raised that demonstrated that Chrome’s prefetching lets unwanted requests slip through.
As with some people following uMatrix, we were conflicted about which was better: to ask for an additional extension permission, or to allow Chrome to continue pre-fetching. We ultimately agreed with the creator of uBlock Origin, who wrote: “uBlock/uMatrix’s job is to block network requests, and users trust that it does what it says it does. Not disabling pre-fetching betrays that trust”.
You can find an overview of how Goodblock uses its permissions here.
Let us know what you think!
We’re excited about these improvements, and we hope you are too. If you have any feedback, comment below or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.