Disconnect, a Browser Extension to Stop Websites Tracking While You Gain Browsing Speed
Disconnect launched nearly a year ago, but I did not know about them until I installed a WhiteHat Aviator browser, which comes pre-loaded with Disconnect search and add-on. I enjoyed the Aviator experience as much as to make it my default browser and add the Disconnect extension to all my browsers. And here is why.
#1. Browse Faster
Disconnect add-on blocks ads and trackers, so all the pages load noticeably faster. If you install add-on in one browser and load any website, even a Google search results page, and do the same in another browser without Disconnect installed, you will see the difference in both the load times and the look of the websites themselves. Everything looks cleaner and uncluttered, which brings us to the next point.
#2. Be Productive
Since no ads interfere with your content consumption, you find the relevant information faster. If you, like me, read a lot on a daily basis and have to process tons of digital text to weed out the most important information, and your main source of information is the Internet, ads do come in the way. Moreover, they tend to distract because those cute puppies look impossibly cute, and those #WomenEatingSaladsAloneandSmilng memes look hilariously dumb. You have to have the super-strong focus and self-discipline not to get carried away by relevant ads and posts you might like.
#3. Protect Your Privacy
Disconnect add-on does not let advertisers and a multitude of other tracking websites track your online activities. Moreover, it displays detailed stats about which services and trackers it blocked on this or that page. You can also white-list websites you want to see with ads and various buttons. For example, Download3k, when loaded through Disconnect does not display buttons that let you share articles and software pages on social networks - Facebook, Google + and Twitter. You can white-list the website and have your favorite resource displayed with all the bells and whistles while blocking the rest.
#4. Know What Data Websites Collect About You
Disconnect add-on is not the only product from the Disconnect team. In fact, there are so many bits and bobs, I initially got confused. I really don't know what their desktop app does in its free iteration other than displaying connections it deems as unsafe. In its paid version, you will be able to block them. However, there are two other free tools I found very useful - Disconnect Privacy Icons and Disconnect Search.
Disconnect Privacy Icons browser add-on does not interfere with your interactions with websites. Instead, it displays what kind of information websites collect and track about you - location and other private information, such as tabs you have open in your browser or where you came from. It will also display whether the website respects a Do Not Track standard, SSL encryption and whether the website is vulnerable to the notorious Heartbleed vulnerability, or if it is a TrustE certified website. You will also know interesting facts about your favorite online services, such as Data Retention - the period during which websites retain your account information after you choose to terminate your account.
You can choose which icons to display, or display no icons at all because sometimes you just want to focus on search results instead of seeing multicolored icons next to each search result.
#5. Protect Your Search Queries
Disconnect Search is a free VPN that lets you use your favorite search engine, but also does not log your searches, IP addresses and other personal data. You won't see any particular button appear in your add-on toolbar, but when you enter a search query, take a look at your results page and note the 'disconnect' in the URL bar.
As I write, I address the audience already looking for a way to browse with at least some privacy, so I assume it unnecessary explain how Facebook, or any other ad-focused online business, violates user privacy and compromises user security. So, no wonder Disconnect targets Facebook, Google and Twitter as some of the most prominent privacy intruders.
When you click on a search result and go to a website, the website knows what search term brought you there. Disconnect blocks that, too, so the websites you visit won't know what you have been looking for when you came. It might sound like hell for webmasters optimizing their websites, but from a user's viewpoint, it looks like an advantage. Also, your Internet Service Provider can see your search queries, and Disconnect blocks them from seeing it.
As I mentioned, you can white-list or black-list any website while the add-on's pop up is small and visualizes important information - like the trackers and the dashboard that shows how faster the page loaded and how it saved your bandwidth.
All things considered, Disconnect add-on is a must-have these days. Easy to use, non-intrusive and lightweight, it respects your privacy, does not compromise your security and lets you browse faster, safer and be more productive. If you complement it with Disconnect Search and Disconnect Privacy Buttons, you will take your daily routines a step further to your privacy.