Ad Blockers

A guide to installing and using an ad blocker to block advertisements and trackers.

Installing an ad blocker is a great way to improve your privacy and speed up your Internet browsing. By default, Internet advertising companies and websites collect data about the sites you visit, the things you buy, and the searches that you make. In many cases, they attempt to aggregate this data together in order allow advertisers to target specific demographics online.

By installing an ad blocker, you can reduce the ability of ad networks to target and profile you.

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Online Advertising: Tracking and Targeting

Online advertising networks and third party companies collect vast amounts of data in order to profile users. The more a company knows about a particular visitor, the more valuable they are as a potential advertising target. This allows companies to give advertisers the ability to target very specific demographics – for example thirty-somethings who have two kids – for ads.

The most successful advertising companies aggregate numerous data sources such as web browsing and app usage history to build very detailed profiles. Even if you don’t give a particular website personal information, advertisers may be able to target you based on your past browsing history, device information (browser used, operating system, and screen size), and other such data.

The classic example is if you search for a specific item – such as a car – you may begin to see advertisements for cars on the websites you visit and even on social media sites. Advertisers are able to track your interest using a combination of cookies and other trackers to continue to serve ads across the web.

You can see how many advertising trackers are on a website by using a web-based tool called Blacklight. You just need to enter a URL and the site will tell you how many advertising trackers it finds. The answer may surprise you!

Learn more about Online Ad Targeting

Install an Ad Blocker

In order to prevent this targeted advertising, you can install an ad blocker. An ad blocker is a small piece of software that runs within your web browser that blocks requests to advertising networks and other trackers.

Install uBlock Origin

We recommend using uBlock Origin. uBlock Origin is an open source ad blocking extension that is available for most major browsers. You can install it in Firefox and Chrome (including Chrome-based browsers such as Brave and Microsoft Edge).

For most users, installing uBlock Origin will be enough to make an immediate impact. uBlock Origin blocks advertisements at the network level and will prevent your browser from making requests to advertising networks and tracking scripts. The default settings are designed for a “set it and forget it” approach. However, you can do additional configuration to customize the settings if you wish.

How to Install Browser Add-Ons

Ad Blocker for Safari

For folks using Safari on macOS and iOS, the best option is Ka-Block!. Ka-Block! is an open source ad blocker that works similarly to uBlock Origin.

Examples of Ad Blocker Results

MSNBC Homepage without Ad Blocker
MSNBC Homepage without Ad Blocker
MSNBC Homepage with Ad Blocker
MSNBC Homepage with Ad Blocker without Ad Blocker without Ad Blocker with Ad Blocker with Ad Blocker