[Chrome, Firefox] Block websites and ad networks from tracking you with Disconnect.meApril 18, 2013 25 Email article | Print article
With semi-unique identifiers like IP address, the Internet was never intended to be a private place. However, privacy is a topmost priority for many web-goers. More specifically, many users are concerned about their surfing habits being tracked by websites and/or ad networks. Disconnect.me is looking to assist you in protecting your privacy. Let’s see if it is worth your time.
What is it and what does it do
Disconnect.me is an add-on for Firefox and an extension for Chrome that aims to protect your privacy by, well, disconnecting you from things that track your online presence. It does this by detecting and blocking ad networks, website analytics, and social networking buttons on websites you visit. To be clear, Disconnect.me isn’t an ad-blocker per se (it is a privacy protector) but it does block ads.
Although Disconnect.me is not something that designed to increase website load times per se, a side effect of blocking ad works/analytics/social networking buttons is you will load pages faster than before. According to the developer of Disconnect.me, users experience 27% faster load speeds after installing Disconnect.me.
Take note Disconnect.me works on all platforms (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, etc.) that support regular Firefox add-ons and Chrome extensions.
- Automatically detects and blocks ad works, website analytics, and social networking buttons
- Developer claims Disconnect.me blocks “2,000+ third-party sites from tracking you”
- Provides a list of detected ad networks, website analytics, and social networking buttons that were detected and blocked, giving you the ability to individually unblock them
- Shows Facebook related, Google related (ads, analytics, Google+, etc.), and Twitter related content blocks as separate buttons at the top of the plugin drop-down menu, allowing you to easily unblock those content since they are popularly desired
- Allows you to manually whitelist websites you don’t want to block anything on
- Has the ability to force use of HTTPS on popular websites that support HTTPS
- Has the ability to force use of HTTPS on search engines that support HTTPS
- Improves (lowers) website load times because of everything it blocks
- Provides an entertaining graph which tells you how much time you saved, how much bandwidth you saved, and how many websites you used HTTPS on by using Disconnect.me
- Is only available for Chrome and Firefox, no other browsers are supported at this time
- Does not properly block Google+ follow buttons (probably a bug)
- Note: This bug is on Firefox only; Google+ follow buttons are properly blocked on Chrome)
- Blocks ads from Google (i.e. AdSense ads) on websites but does not block ads on Google.com, for some reason (probably a bug)
- Note: This bug is on both Firefox and Chrome
- Secure HTTPS for popular websites is pretty limited; only supports facebook.com, facebook.de, facebook.fr, gmail.com, google.com, googlemail.com, linkedin.com, twitter.com, yahoo.com, youtube.com, which makes the feature pretty much useless
- Note: HTTPS Everywhere for Firefox and Chrome is a much better plugin for forcing use of HTTPS on websites
- Secure HTTPS search feature is not yet available — it is currently disabled and expected to be available “soon”
- Has a “visualize page” feature which is supposed to “let you graph the requests on the page you’re on”. However, the button for this feature is always grayed out for me — I cannot use it.
- This isn’t very fair criticism since Disconnect.me isn’t an ad-blocker, but it should be mentioned that Disconnect.me doesn’t allow for custom blocking of specific elements on pages like AdBlock Plus does.
Disconnect.me is an add-on for Firefox and Extension for Chrome that automatically detects and blocks ad networks, website analytics, and social networking buttons. Disconnect.me does not bill itself as an ad-blocker like AdBlock Plus; it blocks ad networks for the purpose of stopping them from tracking you. But a side effect of stopping tracking is that ads are also blocked.
Once you install Disconnect.me, it goes to work for you automatically detecting and blocking ad networks, website analytics, and social networking buttons for all websites you visit; there is no setup or anything required (aside from restarting your browser, in the case of Firefox). If you ever want to see what Disconnect.me is blocking, you can click the D button placed in your browser’s toolbar which opens Disconnect.me’s drop-down menu. This menu allows you to unblock specific content — including easy unblocking buttons for Facebook, Google, and Twitter related content — or to whitelist a website so nothing is blocked on it. This menu also allows you to enable/disable Disconnect.me’s secure HTTPS features.
Now I’m sure the question on everyone’s mind is: should I ditch my ad-blocker for Disconnect.me. My response? Nope.
Disconnect.me is a very good plugin, yes. However, it isn’t without its bugs. I tested Disconnect.me on multiple websites, including dotTech and Google.com. On dotTech we run two ad networks (Google AdSense and AOL’s Advertising.com), have Facebook/Twitter/Google+ buttons, and use Google Analytics for website analytics. Disconnect.me properly detected and blocked both ad networks, Facebook and Twitter buttons, and Gogole Analytics… but it failed to block Google+ follow buttons in Firefox. Similarly, for some odd reason Disconnect.me does not block ads on Google.com although it blocks Google AdSense ads on other websites (this bug is on Firefox and Chrome).
So you shouldn’t ditch your ad blocker for Disconnect.me, at least not until Disconnect.me fixes the bug of not blocking ads on Google.com. But can you (should you) run an ad blocker and Disconnect.me at the same time? You can, but you probably shouldn’t.
Disconnect.me and ad blockers (like AdBlock Plus) have two different purposes: Disconnect.me wants to protect your privacy by stopping online tracking while ad blockers explicitly exists for the purpose of blocking ads. However, their purposes may differ but the end result is the same: the block of ads and ad networks and the stop of tracking by these ad networks. As such, running both side-by-side is almost pointless.
Conclusion and download link
I like Disconnect.me, I really do; it is a plugin focused on helping users protect their privacy. And it works, for the most part. However, until Disconnect.me is able to properly block ad networks on all websites (i.e. is able to properly block Google ads on Google.com), I cannot recommend it to anyone. My recommendation is to stick to your favorite ad-blocker; read dotTech’s guide on how to block ads on Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Opera to learn more.
Version reviewed: 5.0.0
Supported OS: Any operating system that supports Firefox add-ons and Chrome extensions
Download size: Unknown
VirusTotal malware scan results: N/A
Is it portable? N/A