by Martin Brinkmann

Chance is, that if you are using the Internet, that you are tracked on it to a certain degree. From basic stats recording on websites over advertising cookies to advanced forms of tracking that use fingerprinting, plug-ins, or header information.

What makes most of those threats hard to grasp is the fact that everything is happening in the background. Websites display just fine, and if you do not run software that informs you about privacy issues, or check cookies or other data forms manually, you do not really know how much tracking is going on.
There are ways to limit the tracking that you are exposed to. You can block third-party cookies for instance in the browser, enable Do Not Track, or install extensions such as NoScript to prevent many script-based tracking techniques such as the one used by Google’s Analytics service.


NoTrace is another add-on for the Firefox web browser that provides you with protection against privacy threats on the Internet. Unlike many other extensions, it also attempts to raise awareness of issues.
Once you have installed the extension in the browser and restarted the program afterwards, it will automatically function on any site you visit.
You notice a new icon in Firefox’s address bar, but that is about it in regards to interface modifications. What you may notice however is that some web elements may not load properly anymore.
A left-click on the extension icon displays a context menu with options to load the various configuration menus and informational menus that the program makes available.
Control Panel
All preferences are configured here. You can set a default protection level here for instance, with choices ranging from low to customizes, which differ in what is being allowed to pass through, and what is blocked.
Generally speaking, the level of protection defines how web tracking, potential personal information leaks, and third-party activities and ads are handled by the extension.
Personal Information:
  • Disable http cookies
  • Filter out potentially identifying HTTP headers
  • Filter out cookies and referrer in JavaScript
  • Disable META cookies and redirects
  • Filter out web images
  • Disable JavaScript execution
  • Filter HTML noscript tags
Web Tracking:
  • Disable third-party JavaScript executions
  • Filter out third-party images
  • Filter out web bugs
  • Disable third-party HTTP cookies
  • Filter out objects from top-10 third party domains
  • Disable Flash cookies
  • Disable hidden third-party scripts
  • Disable ad-network cookies
  • Delete HTML5 LocalStorage data
Third-Party Activities and Ads:
  • Block requests for third-party objects
  • Filter out third-party objects with “?”, “=” or “&”
  • filter out advertisements
  • No Fingerprinting
What’s interesting here is that the number of objects and items that you have encountered since you have installed the extension is displayed here for each item.
You can click on those objects to get a detailed list of each object so that you know from where it originated.
Some of the options provided alone make this is a worthwhile extension to install. Options to filter web images, web bugs, third-party images, or fingerprinting could persuade you to give this a try.
That’s however not the only thing that the extension has going for it. It comes with a whitelist that you can use to allow sites to bypass the privacy restrictions that you have set in place. Here you can either add sites manually to the list, or import a text file that contains a list of domain names that you want whitelisted.
Show Blocked Objects
If you run this command, NoTrace will display all objects that it has blocked on a page. Each element is listed with its URI, and a classification such as web tracking.
There is unfortunately no option to unblock elements right from the list.
Show History
The window displays a history of all blocked objects ever since you have started to use the extension. Locations are sorted by domain, so that you can access all blocked objects of a particular site at once.
Show Privacy Leakage
Another interesting window full of information. It provides you with an overview of some of the requests that a website that you are connected to makes.
Objects such as cookies, third-party requests or third-party images are listed here, and you are informed if personal information are leaked by the site.

Closing Words

NoTrace is a useful privacy extension for Firefox that adds a whole array of privacy related blocking options to the browser.
It will take some time to configure the service the way you want it to run, but once that is out of the way, it should run by itself from that moment on.

Even if you are using something like NoScript, you may benefit from the extension thanks to its impressive number of blocking options.

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