Guide: How to Enhance Your Web Privacy with NoScript

Privacy while surfing can be serious business for a number of web surfers. Some use a number of tools like NoScript to block unwanted scripts on websites they visit. This can help stop websites from tracking who that user is that visit that webpage, thus enhancing their privacy. This guide will show you how to download, install and use NoScript.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

Before we start with the guide, we should offer a reason why someone would use something like NoScript. Many websites these days employ different tracking techniques. These website tracking techniques can tell the web owner a number of things about its users. The bits of information that can be obtained include type of web browser, country of origin, ISP, operating system, screen resolution, age, gender, marital status, type and level of education, which site you came from, which webpage you left on on the website and sometimes even the webpage you went to to name a number of these examples. I’m not entirely sure how some of these statistics are gathered, but such statistics can be made available by sites like Alexa which can give you a sense of what the traffic is like for a number of websites.

On the other hand, usually, website owners track data on a more cumulative level. This means that, sure, it can detect you are from country ‘X’, but all the web owner typically sees is, ‘X’ number of users from from country ‘X’ Unless you are doing something that warrants individual attention, a website owner probably won’t care about web hits on an individual basis. Even when you warrant their attention on a moderation level, chances are, it’s a case of seeing a particular users IP address more than anything else.

Having said all of that, tracking of your internet activity isn’t (or, should I say, shouldn’t be) compulsory when you’ve done nothing wrong. In a way, using NoScript can be your way of saying, “Hey, count me out of your statistics gathering”. If you want to be one of those individuals that would rather opt out of being tracked using NoScript, then read on.

For this guide to work, you need to be using the internet web browser FireFox.

Step 1: Download NoScript

As with many FireFox plug-ins, downloading and installing this plug-in is very straight forward. First, you need to the NoScript website. Under the NoScript logo, there’s a green button that says “Download”. Click on that button.

When you do click on that link, you’ll see a little pop-up message asking you if you really want to install NoScript. Since we want this plug-in, click on “Allow”

Step 2: Install NoScript

After you’ve allowed this plug-in to download, you’ll get a pop-up window that asks you if you want to install this. Since we know this is not a malicious plug-in, we can go ahead and click on “Install Now”

Step 3: Restart FireFox

As with most other plug-ins we’ve encountered, you must restart FireFox for the installation to be completed. If you are ready, just click on “Restart Now” in the little notification window.

Step 4: Test NoScript

When your browser restarts, you should see one or two things. The first is that NoScript appears right next to your address bar as shown below:

If you are on a website that uses scripts, you should see a bar along the bottom notifying you of any scripts the website you are viewing uses. As a test, we decided to browse to YouTube and see how NoScript behaves out of the box. This was our result:

As we can see, there is a total of 24 scripts and no objects are present. By default, some scripts are automatically allowed on YouTube through NoScript. This can easily be changed through the NoScript menu that can be found either by clicking on the NoScript button or, as we demonstrate below, on the “Options…” button on the bar along the bottom of our browser:

From this menu, we can easily pick and choose whatever set of scripts we want to allow. We can allow all scripts, block all scripts or allow and block different scripts.

The thing to remember is that some scripts are needed to run many parts of a website. So, blocking all scripts may result in you not being able to view a website properly. Blocking and allowing scripts is more of something you have to feel your way through. You can block scripts that exists in the website itself and see how the website functions without it and then unblock it afterwards if you suddenly are unable to use a website in whatever fashion you choose. Experiment around with it is my best advice.

Final Thoughts

I think NoScript is a nice plug-in because it can tell you more about a website then you would just by loading it without any extra plug-ins. Sure, some websites seem simple, but then you can find out that a simple website can have two dozen scripts running in the background. It is also an added layer of security. While a light layer of security, it’s better than nothing at all I think. Some malicious websites might use scripts to do a lot of nasty things to its users. I’m sure someone immersed in the field of back-end web coding would say it’s entirely possible to create a whole variety of nasty stuff with scripts. NoScript can block websites that use malicious scripts which is a nice bonus.

Overall, I think it’s a nice thing to add to your plug-in collection.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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