Privacy Badger Review 2024: A Free Privacy Tool That Blocks Trackers

Privacy Badger is a privacy tool that aims to block invisible trackers and protect your online privacy, but it's not as strong as traditional ad blockers.
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4.4
Editorial Rating
Learn More
On Privacy Badger's website

Ad Blocker
Privacy Badger
  • Completely free, open-source privacy tool that detects and blocks third-party trackers
  • Automatically opts out of data sharing and tracking
  • Can block some contextual ads and analytics tools
  • Only blocks some ads and is limited to blocking trackers, so may need to be used in conjunction with a traditional ad-blocking tool

Privacy Badger is a free privacy tool designed to detect and block third-party trackers. We found it also does a fairly good job of blocking ads. However, it's not specifically meant to block ads, so it doesn't always prevent ads from disrupting your online browsing activities, like watching YouTube videos.

Still, Privacy Badger can help discover trackers and automatically update your privacy settings. It's a great privacy tool for browsing anonymously. But it's not as strong an ad blocker compared to others that we've tested and reviewed in our best ad blockers list.

Keep reading to find out how Privacy Badger fared during our hands-on testing and whether it can work as a good enough ad blocker for your needs.

Pros
  • Detects and blocks third-party trackers
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Automatically opts out of data sharing and tracking
  • Completely free to use
Cons
  • Is limited to blocking trackers and may need to be used in conjunction with a traditional ad-blocking tool
  • Not available on Safari
In this article
Overview
Our experience
Features
Test results
Compatibility
Ad blocker alternatives
FAQs
Bottom line: Is Privacy Badger good?

Privacy Badger overview

Ads blocked on Forbes 33
AdBlock Tester score 61/100
Cover Your Tracks score 2/3
Can You Block It score 2/3
Does it block YouTube ads? No
Whitelisting available Yes
Blacklisting available No
Compatibility Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Opera
Paid version Free (donations accepted)
Learn more Get Privacy Badger

How we test and rate ad blockers

Each ad blocker we review goes through a standardized test designed to push the limits of what the software is capable of. This includes vigorous third-party testing using websites like adblock-tester.com, coveryourtracks.eff.org, and canyoublockit.com. We also visit popular websites to test the ad blocker’s day-to-day capabilities, including watching YouTube videos and browsing Forbes.

Once we’ve completed the testing, we calculate our editorial rating by taking into account key features you’d expect from a good product. We score each ad blocker in the following categories and use a weighted average to calculate the final rating out of 5 stars:

  • Price
  • Test scores
  • Features
  • Browser support
  • Editorial score

Our experience

Privacy Badger was easy to install and use. It even had notifications to help improve any browsing errors you may experience while you're using the extension. For example, we once received a notification to customize permissions for a Google tracker if we wanted to log in using our Google account.

We liked that Privacy Badger notified us with a way to fix browsing errors, such as customizing permissions when we tried to log into our Google account.

While not being able to block YouTube ads was disappointing, we didn't encounter any other ads while using Privacy Badger. Ads either disappeared, or a blank white space showed instead.

Overall, Privacy Badger was easy to install and use on the Chrome browser. Clicking on the extension shows you the trackers Privacy Badger is managing, options to customize permissions, and a donation option to the developers directly. 

For more advanced settings, click on the gear icon in the upper right corner to reveal more options.

Privacy Badger's settings make it easy to customize how and what it blocks, and it also offers advanced settings.

Why doesn’t Privacy Badger block every ad?

Privacy Badger doesn't block all ads because it wasn't built to do that. Instead, it concerns itself with detecting and blocking invasive third-party trackers. Privacy Badgers aims "...to prevent non-consensual invasions of people’s privacy because we believe they are inherently objectionable. We also want to create incentives for advertising companies to do the right thing."[1]

Sometimes it will put trackers on a yellowlist to signify trackers that may be necessary for website functionality. If a website is yellowlisted, it's allowed to load, but Privacy Badger will attempt to block unnecessary cookies and referrers.

Consequently, it may block most ads with trackers attached, but it doesn't primarily focus on stopping ads. Sometimes, ads appear even when you are using Privacy Badger, like while you're watching YouTube videos. So, if you want to block ads specifically, you're better off using a traditional ad blocker in conjunction with Privacy Badger. The good news is that Privacy Badger is compatible with ad blocker extensions.

Main features

Privacy Badger doesn't act like your traditional ad blocker. Instead of focusing on blocking ads, it prevents third-party trackers from following your online activity. Since ads are usually third-party trackers, it blocks these types of ads. 

In this sense, Privacy Badger is more like a private online browsing tool instead of an ad blocker.

Automatic opt-out of data sharing and tracking

Here's how it works: Privacy Badger sends a Global Privacy Control signal to opt out of data sharing and selling. It also sends out Do Not Track signals to notify the website that you don't wish to be tracked. If a website fails to comply with these wishes, then Privacy Badger starts blocking it.

Automatic tracker blocking

Instead of having a list of blocked websites, Privacy Badger makes its blocking decisions based on behavior. For example, if it spots the same tracker across three different sites, Privacy Badger automatically blocks it.

Whitelisting

Privacy Badger automatically blocks sites that track you, but you have the option to disable the tool from working on a list of curated sites.

Privacy Badger Disabled Sites customization

Privacy Badger Disabled Sites customization

Customized tracker blocking

You can also use the extension to customize privacy settings for individual trackers. You have three options appearing in a slider: Red to block a domain, yellow to block unnecessary cookies, and green to allow a domain to load without interference from Privacy Badger.

Privacy Badger has a simple slider setup where you can block, yellowlist, or allow a site domain.

Privacy Badger Tracking Domains feature
Privacy Badger Tracking Domains feature

Third-party trackers vs. ads

Third-party trackers gather data about your online browsing behavior and use it to display personalized ads while you’re browsing. As if that’s not annoying enough, these trackers may sell your data to other parties.

Test results

We put Privacy Badger to the test. First, we used AdBlock Tester to see if Privacy Badger could successfully block contextual advertising, analytics tools, banner ads, and error monitoring. It originally scored 72 points out of 100, which was on par with Adblock Plus (73 points) at the time. Privacy Badger was docked points for some tests due to failure to load. However, it completely failed at blocking banner ads and didn’t block flash banners, GIFs, and static images.

Privacy Badger performed fairly well in the AdBlock Tester tests, but it was docked points because it loaded GIF and static images.

When we later retested Privacy Badger on Chrome again, its score dropped to 61/100, having failed the banner ads and error monitoring tests. This is still slightly higher than when we retested Adblock Plus, which scored only 56/100.

Privacy Badger AdBlock Tester results
Privacy Badger AdBlock Tester results 

The second test we conducted was with the Cover Your Tracks tool created by Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). This is the same non-profit organization behind Privacy Badger. Privacy Badger successfully blocks tracking ads and trackers but doesn't protect you from fingerprinting. 

Browser fingerprinting is the process of building a unique online profile, even if you don't use cookies while you're browsing. It collects data like hardware, location, usage, and more information to create a unique fingerprint. However, almost all ad blockers aren't capable of passing the fingerprinting test, so these results aren't a surprise.

Privacy Badger passed the Cover Your Tracks test with flying colors, meaning it has strong protection against web tracking.

For the third test, we wanted to see how Privacy Badger holds up to Can You Block It, which tests for common ads like ad blocker warnings, banner ads, and interstitial ads (ads that display while the webpage loads). Privacy Badger passed 2/3 because we did see interstitial ads. 

Privacy Badger scores

Test AdBlock Tester Cover Your Tracks Can You Block It
Privacy Badger score 61/100 2/3 2/3
Test results as of 04/25/2024.

Does Incognito mode hide your browsing activity?

Chrome’s Incognito mode helps you browse more anonymously, but you’ll need to add other forms of privacy protection to hide your data from invisible trackers and advertisers.

YouTube ads test

YouTube ads may be the most noticeable online ad you encounter during your browsing. You may get stuck watching ads for several seconds before your YouTube video starts, in the middle of the video, or even after it's done playing.

During our testing, Privacy Badger failed to block all YouTube ads for several videos. While watching YouTube videos, we received ads at various intervals. Since Privacy Badger predominantly identifies itself as a privacy tool and not an ad blocker tool, it's easy to see how YouTube ads slipped through its tracker-blocking services.

Since many people use ad blockers to block YouTube ads, this failure does make Privacy Badger unappealing. You may find an alternative, like Total Adblock or uBlock Origin, a better choice for ad-free YouTube sessions.

However, if you are more interested in blocking trackers instead of ads, Privacy Badger may still be a good option. It may also still be a good choice if you want to support your favorite YouTube creators, who often rely on ads to make a living.

Privacy Badger didn't block YouTube ads for us, but this may not be a bad thing if you want to support your favorite video creators.

Bypassing paywall test

Paywalled content means that the user must subscribe to access the "premium" content. Most ad blockers, free or paid, typically can't bypass hard paywalls like those on national news sites. But some of the most powerful ad blockers can bypass soft paywalls like those on local news sites. Unsurprisingly, Privacy Badger isn't able to bypass paywalls.

What browsers is Privacy Badger compatible with?

Privacy Badger is compatible with several popular web browsers and offers browser extensions for the following:

  • Google Chrome
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Microsoft Edge
  • Opera

Notably, Privacy Badger doesn't work with Safari, but it's currently building an app for Safari on macOS.

Ad blocker alternatives

While Privacy Badger is a solid privacy tool, you may also need a traditional ad blocker. We've reviewed and tested the best ad blockers on the market and recommend the following based on their premium features, ranging from top-notch antivirus software to built-in VPN services. 



Threat Protection

CleanWeb
Best for Best for blocking YouTube ads Best overall Best for blocking streaming ads
Price Starts at $1.59/mo (billed annually) Starts at $3.99/mo (billed every two years) Starts at $2.19/mo (billed biennially)
Free version?
Adblock Tester score 100/100 93/100 96/100
Cover Your Tracks score 2/3 2/3 0.5/3
Can You Block It score3/3 2/3 3/3
Blocks YouTube ads?
Compatibility Windows, Mac, Chrome, Edge, Opera, Amazon Fire, Safari, Android, iOS Threat Protection:
Windows, macOS

Threat Protection Lite:
Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, Chrome, Edge, Firefox

Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, Chrome, Edge, Firefox, FireTV
Learn more Get Total Adblock Get NordVPN Threat Protection Get Surfshark CleanWeb

Privacy Badger FAQs


+

Is Privacy Badger legit?

Privacy Badger is a legit tool designed to help protect your online privacy. It was designed by Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and can detect and block third-party trackers. While this means it can block many ads, it's not specifically created to block ads. You may want to install a traditional ad blocker if this is your priority.


+

Is Privacy Badger spyware?

Privacy Badger is not spyware. While the extension asks for permission to access your data when you install it, it doesn't mean Privacy Badger is spying on your online activity. It claims these are necessary permissions in order to detect and block third-party trackers. Privacy Badger also claims data is never shared unless you specifically share data with it.


+

What does Privacy Badger block?

Privacy Badger blocks third-party trackers. This stops unauthorized people or companies from tracking your online behavior and possibly selling it to other parties. Ultimately, Privacy Badger protects your online privacy. While this does mean it sometimes blocks ads, it's not specifically designed as a traditional ad blocker.


+

What’s the difference between Privacy Badger and Ghostery?

The difference between Privacy Badger and Ghostery is the ability to block all ads. Privacy Badger was designed to block trackers, not ads. Meanwhile, Ghostery can block all ads, including YouTube ads, and even trackers.

Bottom line: Is Privacy Badger good?

Privacy Badger is a good option for people looking for a free way to stop trackers from monitoring their online behavior. It's also compatible with several popular browsers and is an easy extension to install and use. Privacy Badger is still working on an extension for Safari and continues to improve its free product.

Privacy Badger didn't block any YouTube ads, but it did do an excellent job of blocking other ads during our testing. If not being able to bypass YouTube ads is a dealbreaker, consider the best ad blockers for YouTube.

Featured ad blockers

Ad blocker
Best for Best for blocking YouTube ads Best overall Best for parental controls
Price Paid plan costs $1.59/mo (billed annually) Starts at $3.99/mo (billed every two years) Paid plans start at $2.49/mo
Blocks YouTube ads
Learn more Get Total Adblock Get NordVPN Threat Protection Get AdGuard

4.4
Editorial Rating
Learn More
On Privacy Badger's website
Ad Blocker
Privacy Badger
  • Completely free, open-source privacy tool that detects and blocks third-party trackers
  • Automatically opts out of data sharing and tracking
  • Can block some contextual ads and analytics tools
  • Only blocks some ads and is limited to blocking trackers, so may need to be used in conjunction with a traditional ad-blocking tool
Author Details
Sara J. Nguyen is a freelance writer specializing in cybersecurity. She aims to help people protect their data while enjoying technology. She has written about online privacy and tech for over 5 years for several organizations. When she's not writing about the latest cybersecurity trends, you can find her on LinkedIn.
Kate is an Editor at All About Cookies. She has 8+ years of digital publishing experience as a content manager, developmental editor, and curriculum writer. She leverages specializations in EdTech and educational publishing to create impactful, well-researched content that aids learners of all ages.

Citations

[1] Privacy Badger Frequently Asked Questions