I recently found out about the Decentraleyes add-on for Firefox. To understand why Decentraleyes is a good idea and why it can help you protect your privacy, here’s what’s been happening so far:
- Web developers all over the world have started using the same libraries of Free Software code to solve the same common problems. This is good.
- Web developers thought it would be a good idea to host this code on CDNs (distributed content delivery networks). This makes pages load faster and takes the (financial) burden of hosting them off the web developers. This is also good.
- Large companies like Google, Microsoft and Facebook – who make money by analyzing and recording your behavior in order to sell private details about you to other companies – have started offering such library hosting for free. This is bad.
Because every time you visit a website that refers to such a hosted library, and that’s hundreds of thousands or millions of websites, you give away your intentions to the company hosting the library. You tell Google where you’ve been on the Internet, and by pinging them every time you open any number of websites, they can track where you’re going, whether you’re using your phone, your tablet or your computer, when your preferred time for web surfing is, etc.
There is a reason these companies offer this hosting for “free”. It’s because you are the product, this data about you is aggregated and resold to advertisers. What’s worse, those companies can at any time introduce malicious code into your browser by changing the libraries they offer. Your browser will not be able to tell whether it is running a manipulated version of the code, and antivirus products are unable to defend against such an attack.
Because we won’t be able to convince web developers to do the right thing and either create a non-profit organization to securely host all these libraries or host the libraries themselves, you can only take matters into your own hands. Decentraleyes does this for you, by downloading all those libraries to your own computer and rerouting any request that would ordinarily go to a shared library server to your computer instead. It takes no configuration, you just need to install the Firefox add-on and that’s it.
This alone won’t be enough to win back your privacy, but it’s one building block. A free bonus is that pages that would normally use a CDN now load faster if you have this extension.