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Ask HN: What's the best setup for ad blocking and tracker blocking?
277 points by whitepoplar on Aug 23, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 158 comments
I currently use uBlock Origin + Privacy Badger, but I've become frustrated with having to disable one or both of the above for too many sites--they just break functionality for a good chunk of the web. What's the best setup these days for ad-blocking + privacy/tracker-blocking that doesn't break the web? Thanks!

I recommend multiple layers. Why? Because some devices/apps will circumvent one of these layers one way or another.

I use Pi-Hole plus WireGuard to route all my devices through my home broadband connection (so even on a hotel/train WiFi, when on LTE, etc). I forward it to Unbound which uses DNSSEC and DNSCrypt. I'm using an EdgeRouter Lite for that purpose. It does add a little bit of latency, but I don't mind, as it also increases my privacy on the insecure link. It also works on say a smart TV or an official Android device (I use a rooted Android device with microG which doesn't implement GAds). My partner sees barely any ads at home due to this setup (I did not bother to setup WireGuard on her smartphone as of yet).

On each individual client device I also use a layer 7 firewall ("personal firewall"). On macOS I use Little Snitch and LuLu. On Linux I use OpenSnitch. I don't use Windows, but if I would I'd at least remove all the tracking stuff (for example with O&O ShutUp). On Android, I don't use a layer 7 firewall which is my bad.

For browser, on every OS I use a configured Firefox (which I did NOT document; my bad!) with a bunch of addons. uBlock Origin (mainly to manually block "you are blocking ads" notices). I use uMatrix, Cookie AutoDelete, Smart Referer, Privacy Badger, Decentraleyes, HTTPS Everywhere, containers for Amazon/Facebook/Google (would like to add Microsoft), CanvasBlocker, Tracking Token Stripper, Forget Me Not, Terms of Service; Didn’t Read, and Buster: Captcha Solver for Humans.

uMatrix will break the web. However it is more user-friendly than NoScript ever was. You are going to have to configure such. For websites you regularly use, you can save the temporary changes, or just not use such bloated websites. Also, I recommend the addon Dark Reader and the feature Reader Mode.

To test your setup on your browser, try ipleak.net. One of the things I configured in Firefox, is to disable WebRTC. I don't use an addon for that.

I wrote a guide for the Pihole + Wireguard setup for anyone interested to try it https://drexl.me/guides/wireguard-pihole-vpn-setup.html

Great guide. May I suggest:

1. Sending a pull-request to the official pi-hole project wiki to get this added to their docs?

2. Adding a small nugget about running just the DNS traffic through the VPN instead of all of it. It is a one-line config, IIRC.

It is a fairly good cross-platform list; would definitely recommend O&O Shutup 10 (Windows) - disables Telemetry and other intrusive features. Also, changing to DoH (Cloudflare) and enabling ESNI in Firefox is a good measure. I did not know about Buster, tried it with the reCAPTCHA demo; it works intermittently, which is better than nothing at all. Although I have a add-on for WebRTC, it would seem that the latest version of Firefox sets the attribute to false by default.


Fun fact: i just found out that in Little Snitch, blocking a 'hostname' or 'domain', does NOT block the IP address this resolves to. Very weird. This is done, apparently, because sometimes multiple domains are hosted on the same server/ip. This way you can block only 1 of those domains and not the entire server.

So, a good way for apps to circumvent common blocklists for trackers/ads, is to fall back/connect to a hard coded IP address if connecting to the domain doesn't work...

It would be good if Little Snitch would have an option to disable this behaviour for specific blocklists.

Be wary of too many. Your combination of extensions is likely quite unique and finger-printable.

AFAIK Firefox does not share the extensions it uses; Chrome does.

Using these tools [1] [2] [3] suggest I'm most profileable by the fact I use macOS. Which I can hide in the useragent string, but is then still detected.

[1] https://ipleak.net

[2] https://panopticlick.eff.org

[3] https://amiunique.org

It's been awhile since I looked into it. From the last study I know on the topic [1]: It is much easier to fingerprint Chrome, however Firefox is susceptible to extension fingerprinting techniques. To be fair, these techniques may have been addressed since publishing - I haven't checked.

It may or may not be worth considering depending on your threat model. There may also be novel techniques published since.

Edit: It looks like amiunique is detecting extensions with Plugin Detector [2] which claims to work on Firefox, and at the very least can detect Adblock (per amiunique).

[1]https://www.cse.chalmers.se/~andrei/codaspy17.pdf [2]http://www.pinlady.net/PluginDetect/

The threat model is, IMO, pretty clearly defined. If the threat is 3 letter agencies, we'd be trying to fingerprint Tor Browser, and we'd be using Tor (with 2 use cases: one on *.onion only, other one on clearnet via exit nodes). So what we are trying to defend from, is fingerprinting by commercial entities such as FAANG.

I don't use any special plugins; only the default ones (which are a practical, necessary evil). If I were to remove/disable the default plugins, that'd increase my fingerprint.

I've been trying to let websites tell me which extensions I use in Firefox (remember we are using Quantum since Firefox 57, released in November 2017 which changed the way extensions work). The paper is from CODASPY’17, March 22-24, 2017. I haven't been able to reproduce detection of extensions. Keep in mind also, that I use some precautions. I block canvas via CanvasBlocker. I block Javascript via uMatrix. I even block domains via DNS (Pi-Hole) and uBlock Origin.

If I want to be tracked less easily I'd need to not browse fullscreen, I'd need to not use a native Mac browser but run a Windows or Linux VM or a remote SSH connection (which, quite frankly, is quite possible in a terminal these days as per Browsh [1]), and I'd need to use only the default fonts (because I am using specific fonts in ~/Library/Fonts). Some of these fonts there are temporarily or backup fonts. I will remove these to a temporary directory, and load them ad-hoc.

[1] https://www.brow.sh

The paper was only the one I remembered off the top of my head. There may be more recent work, more relative to Quantum (although the paper does look at WebExtensions), since then. I also personally like to assume that published research papers are a step behind what is happening in the wild.

But, you obviously have a good grasp on what is in your threat model and what isn't. My original comment was geared more towards the people who pile on privacy extensions, sometimes at random, who are under the impression that more extensions always equals more protection.

[2] detects plugins, not extensions

Who would be doing the fingerprinting in that parent post situation? I know very little about fingerprinting. If you're blocking scripting and cookies from most (or maybe all in parent's case?) third parties, are they still able to fingerprint you? If yes, how do they do that?

Or would it be the first-party fingerprinting you and sharing that with their third-parties?

I would argue that this is not really an issue; 99,9% of users are not trying to hide from the NSA... and i seriously doubt whether common websites use such a sophisticated fingerprinting technique to show you a relative ad.

It might not be an issue to you and that is fine. Personally, I will not be basing what is fingerprinted and what isn't based on your doubt.

I have "pi-holed" my openbsd router using both ip blocklists for the firewall and dns blocklists for unbound that refresh automatically every night.

All my clients run firefox with ublock origin and https everywhere. I ran no script for a while but it is quite painfull to manually allow scripts on a lot of pages so I think I have found a nice balance. I have also turned off wasm support in firefox.

If a site doesn't work with the above or shoves large nasty inline popups with "we value your privacy" etc and do not show a clear reject button I leave.

edit: I also pay subscription to most of the websites I use often that support payment and if they don't I email them and tell that I don't want ads and that I'd like to pay for it. Usually one can come to an arrangement.

I have the exact same setup with OpenBSD (pcengines router) and Firefox + plug-ins but the inconvenience of using NoScript outweighs the JavaScript garbage that gets through without it.

As someone not very knowledgeable with the issues associated with web assembly, may i ask why have you disabled it?

I don't trust it yet. That's all.

I want to see how it behaves in the wild before I run it myself.

Would you be willing to share your auto-updating method? I created my own but I'm curious to see other methods.

I just picked the first guide google gave me [1] I'm too lazy. :)

I did read through it though to make sure it didn't do anything bad, however there is a risk that whatever list you download might be malicious some day.


PiHole has been working well for our home as well.

Are there non-obvious sites that will accept a pay subscription, or are you reaching custom arrangements?

One site actually had a paid subscription without ads that was not advertised much, they emailed the link to me and I subscribed ($10 a year).

A couple others I have been given donation links where I can set up what payment I think it's worth as a one off or recurring. Sometimes they have a patron without me finding it.

I ad-block all of them anyway so even if they don't "turn off" the ads I am not seeing them.

Interesting, thanks.

If uBlock Origin + Privacy Badger give you too many problems, what you are after is a worse setup. You want a less aggressive system that allows the ad-tech that those sites are relying on to work, which will also allow that ad-tech to display some ads and invade some privacy, but its a perfectly reasonable choice.

Personally, I use uBlock Origin + Privacy Badger (and NoScript for work, per policy). In most cases, if a site doesn't work I've realized I really don't want to be there (and the Internet is likely better off without adding my rant to the comments section of that click bait article I really shouldn't be wasting my time with). It is fairly rare to find a broken site and rarer still to actually need to use it (airlines are the worst), so I don't sweat the time to temporarily disable protection or work out the white list.

I never heard of Privacy Badger until you mentioned it.

Their FAQ[0] says it's a replacement to Adblock Plus (which implies uBlock Origin too).

What makes you use both of them together? Why not just Privacy Badger?

[0]: https://www.eff.org/privacybadger/faq#How-is-Privacy-Badger-...

Privacy Badger isn't an adblocker per se. It's designed to block trackers, not ads. Those two often collide, but Privacy Badger won't do a thing to block first-party ads (as an example).

That's somewhat different than uBlock Origin's no-ads-what-so-ever policy.

Does PrivacyBadger interfere with uBlock or vice versa? I really like this on paper but wouldn't want to fiddle too much with adding exceptions to each of them just to make sure they don't cannibalize one another.

No, they play together just fine. Privacy Badger probably doesn't do much (or anything) in addition to uBlock Origin, but it is nice to wave the EFF flag.

> NoScript for work, per policy

Your workplace requires you to browse with NoScript?

For some teams, yes. Risk analysis doesn't have it worth it for most employees.

The best setup acc to me for web is Firefox + uMatrix + CanvasBlocker + WebRTC Blocker + DecentralEyes + HTTPS Everywhere + Smart Referrer + StartPage / DuckDuckGo + any DNS over HTTPS provider of your choice. Be prepared for the recaptcha time sink. You could turn on Firefox's resistFingerpriting setting, too. Use Brave or Bromite as an alternative browser for websites that break.

For phones, you could run DNSCloak with AdGuard DNS (iOS) or Blokada (Android). There's AdGuard Pro, Lockdown Firewall, and Guardian VPN+Firewall for iOS that are super neat.

NoRoot Firewall, NetGuard, and GlassWire Firewall for Android that I've found to have acceptable privacy policies. LittleSnitch or LuLu Firewall for Mac, GlassWire Firewall for Windows are some of the other options.

Pi-Hole your routers too for other devices connecting to Internet.

> Be prepared for the recaptcha time sink.

You can marginally reduce the recaptcha "problem" by using the Privacy Pass extension, though I can't speak to whether there's a net loss of privacy by using it.

I have had it installed for the past half year, and in that time only one pass has been used.

In my personal experience, the vast majority of captchas are Google, while Privacy Pass is only supported by Cloudflare. If Google supported it, it would be amazing.

Unfortunately Google uses their captchas to train image recognition algorithms so they have an incentive not to do so.

For the recaptcha timesink, you can use the "Buster: Captcha Solver for Humans" extension. Though using it too often may cause issues as well.

Apart from the usual recommendations, to Firefox users I recommend enabling first-party isolation by setting "privacy.firstparty.isolate" to true. In this way, the data of every website will be isolated from each other. It is like the Facebook/Google container extension, but for every single website there is. It has yet to break something after one year of use and it has certainly made my browsing feel much less invasive.

> […] it has certainly made my browsing feel much less invasive.

How does this manifest itself to you? With uBlock Origin installed (part of the usual recommendations) you don't see any ads at all. I couldn't tell if some website shared data with another website, because the effects that I could observe (e.g., ads that follow me around) are already gone.

The fact you're logged into Google everywhere after checking your Gmail...

Aaaaah yeah, I've seen several pages trying to either auto-login or auto create a new account with my Google account :(

I've been using https://www.nextdns.io for the last month.

It's PiHole as a Service.

+1 for nextdns. I've been using them since they were first posted to HN, and have had zero issues and enjoyed the ease of use. The iPhone app gives me the capability to block specific services while nextdns is in use (Facebook, Google, etc) and to easily disable it for the few moments I actually need to access certain platforms.

Been testing Nextdns for several months now and it works almost great except a few thing:

- EDNS is not working (the setting does nothing), I have tested it with Akamai CDN and they don't report any EDNS

- The upstream DNS server used by Nextdns is not always the nearest to you, meaning some CDN will redirect you to some content cache server on another country.

These two problems combined make downloading some content noticeably slower for me.

And the weird part, I reached them via support and started troubleshooting with them and for no understandable reason they dropped the conversation and they do not respond to me now (??). I know it's beta with no warranty but still it doesn't look good.

I'm back to pi-hole for my home network but I'm still using them on my iPhone although I'm looking to setup my own doh server + pi-hole and using the Adguard iOS doh client.

The only problem I've encountered with nextdns is they went down effectively taking out internet and no one at home knowing how to mitigate it.

Otherwise, a good value prop, provided you turn off their logging feature that captures client-ip among other metadata.

Also, keep in mind that you could run Pi-Hole on a VPS and split-VPN only DNS traffic through it: https://docs.pi-hole.net/guides/vpn/only-dns-via-vpn/ DO charges $5 for 1TB traffic and a decent amt of compute, which ought to be enough for 500 or more (?) devices worth of DNS traffic.

Wow, what a creative use of IPv6 to allow a custom configuration without the use of DNS-over-HTTPS.

DNS over HTTPS, DNS over TLS, and DNSCrypt are all abt preventing DNS manipulation attacks and encrypting the DNS traffic to the resolver (if not till the nameserver). Plain old DNS over UDP/53, IPv6 or not, can't be a substitute for that, afaik.

Looking at their site, it seems complicated to set up.

What is the difference between IPv4, unbound, stubby, knot, and cloudfared - do you set one, or all of them? Do I want DNS over HTTPS, DNS over TLS, or both? Is it compatible with a VPN?

For the trouble, it looks like it wouldn't be any harder to just set up your own Pi-Hole. Am I wrong?

I understand where you come from, but I'd say they've made a good job of simplfying as much as they could at this early stage.

Use DNS over HTTPS for:

1. Firefox.

2. Intra app on Android phones below version 9.

3. Clouflared on Linux.

4. Their official iOS app.

Use DNS over TLS for:

1. Android 9 and above.

2. Knot or Stubby or unbound clients on Linux.

IPv6 and IPv4 are for DHCP provided DNS:

1. With IPv4, you'd need to link your client-ip (public IP of your router) with your nextdns setup.

2. IPv6 doesn't require any such linked-ip acrobatics.

Re: VPN:

If you use DNS over HTTPS on Android or iOS, you won't be able to use a VPN, and that's because the DNS traffic is itself routed through a VPN and one can't chain VPNs on Android just yet. Other than that, VPN should work with rest of the setup mechanisms.


Do you use anything else in conjunction with it? Or NextDNS alone is enough?

I ask because it seems simple enough that I can just install it really quickly on non-technical people's computers (when they ask me for help) without bothering to downloading a bunch of extensions on different browsers, updating stuff, etc, etc...

Nextdns is enough, but uBlockOrigin or uMatrix would be more effective for the web, along with DecentralEyes, CanvasBlocker, WebRTC Blocker, SmartReferrer, and other such extensions.

Also, aggressive blocking can cause some websites and apps to break. dns.adguard.com (DoT) and https://dns.adguard.com/dns-query (DoH) whilst not aggressive don't break as many websites and apps, and would remain free to use. Nextdns would cost you $1 a month if you need more than 500k queries once they're out of the beta stage.

Wow! This looks awesome, promising.

Just, wishing I saw this before I settled on Pi-Hole.

I'm curious, what websites are breaking for you? I use the same (+ Facebook Container) and I rarely notice breakage. PrivacyBadger is the only one that's broken something for me before (image links from a CDN), I can't recall uBlock Origin ever breaking a site for me unless the site has an anti-adblocker.

If you're talking about the "please disable your adblocker to continue" messages, you can consider something like Anti Adblock Killer [1] which can help bypass those kinds of blocks.

As far as the best setup I think what you have is fairly close to "the best" already without getting more hands-on. You can check out Pi-hole which I've heard is superior, but harder to setup [2].

[1] https://github.com/reek/anti-adblock-killer

[2] https://pi-hole.net/

Off the top of my head, disabling uBlock has been the only way to unblock on-and-off trouble with some ATT-owned websites (ATT's own website, ATTWatchTV.com, etc) and owner.ford.com (original, the beta works fine).

My experience has been generally good, but weird stuff (especially authenticating/login) just won't work sometimes with uBlock and Privacy Badger running.

I also use the HTTPS everywhere Chrome extension, so perhaps that is an added factor that breaks things.

Anti Adblock Killer is not maintained anymore, I've been using this (popular on Reddit): https://jspenguin2017.github.io/uBlockProtector/

Same setup here, zero problems encountered. Maybe there's a custom blocklist that gives problems?

> I've become frustrated with having to disable one or both of the above for too many sites--they just break functionality for a good chunk of the web

For uBlock Origin[1], the best solution is to report the breakage to filter list maintainers.

Keep in mind that all the lists are community-contributed, with filtering issue addressed as users report them. So you benefit from these when using a content blocker making use of these community-maintained lists.

So when you report a broken site and that as a result the lists are updated, then you contributed back to have the issue addressed for others as well when they visit the site.

The basic default lists/settings should have minimal breakage issues.

* * *

[1] Side note: uBO is a content blocker, not an "ad blocker" -- I never ever referred to uBO as an "ad blocker". I consider this an important distinction.

Edit: I forgot to mention the most important piece: When a site says that it won't work without JS, I accept this and close the tab. Unless it's Google Maps.

My browser has built-in URL-based filters.

I browse with JS disabled except for a handful of sites, which I enable for the session whenever I need it.

My browser makes it easy, with a three-key shortcut to toggle it.

This is about the extent of it.

I used to use uBO, which I still think is great, and enough for more Chrome and Firefox users. Many blessings to its maintainer.

> When a site says that it won't work without JS, I accept this and close the tab. Unless it's Google Maps.

This is the real problem at the end of the day. Some of the worst offenders as far as privacy and security are useful so they're hard to detach from.

Every six months or so I try OpenStreetMap and see if I have the patience to deal with its more limited functionality. So far the answer has been "no" but I'm due for another try...

I don't mind letting Google in. I've accepted living in the open.

It's more about wasting my cycles, safety of my environment, etc.

It's certainly nice to not ping 127 trackers per page, a nice bonus.

Google Maps doesn't do that anyway. Except to Facebook, IIRC... Or is that vice versa? Facebook knows where I am too, but at least they're in a no-JS jail, thanks to the half-maintained but sturdy m.facebook.com.

Anyway, feel free to hang out on this lawn as long as you like, it's not like it's mine.

General advice: make sure you have a solution on all platforms. TV, IoT, phone on wifi, phone on mobile network, etc...

At home you need to first subvert your ISP.

Make sure you have a router doing blocking, like a PiHole. For mobile devices always use a VPN and DNS protection like dns-crypt. Use Cloudflare’s mobile DNS over HTTPS solution even though that’s a single point of failure, decide for yourself how risky you think that is.

Besides browser specific plugins you should implement a host block. The host block lists are not too exhaustive so if you use dns-crypt configure it to log every dns request and add any new hosts to your block list that look surprising.

It’s a lot of work, but if that’s what you’re looking for you may find some fun ways to automate this workflow :)

For mobile I use https://blockerdns.com/ (full disclaimer: that's my creation). It's ad blocking through DNS-over-TLS on Android 9 and above.

For home I just run my own bind DNS servers internally. And then for friends and family I have them set their routers to a couple bind DNS servers (same config as my internal ones) in the cloud.

For all of the above I use the same block list. It currently has about 25k entries, and is built with some data from a few of the well known public lists. But I augment that with domains I find by regularly auditing specific websites that are particularly aggressive with ads and specifically trackers.

But with that said, since I've got friends, family and paying users working from that list, I do actively try to prevent the breaking of popular sites and services. For example, personally I'd outright block anything related to Facebook since I quit them years ago, but too many people still use it, so for my list I try to keep a good balance by blocking their pixel and stuff like that, while allowing the resources absolutely necessary for the site.

> ad blocking through DNS-over-TLS on Android 9 and above.

FYI, dns.adguard.com does more or less the same thing, and is free.

Credible effort. You should add a section abt latencies, too.

There are free alternatives. So, you might need to provide extra value-add for the $1 (I understand no-logs is a value-add).

If I may ask, how does the tech stack look like? And what's the software run for DoT and DoH

> full disclaimer: that's my creation

Small observation: when you disclose something, it's a disclosure.

Ah damn, I botched that one. No more commenting while walking the dog.

Don't beat yourself up. It seems lime disclosure and disclaimer are almost consistently used in reverse on HN. It's the strangest thing!


The best setup is cli browser links or lynx.

Next best is Firefox with uBlock Origin, uMatrix, Privacy Badger, Cookie Autodelete, Decentreleyes, and a bunch of about:config alterations. Some sites will break. If a site breaks I either forget about it or open it in incognito.

> The best setup is cli browser links or lynx

Agreed. lynx(1) is my primary browser, after configuring its "externals" and some patching of it (then re-compiling) to rewrite URLs (mostly the Google crap).

My secondary is emacs-w3m with heavy URL re-writes.

On macOS I mostly use LittleSnitch, with a few lists, then manually add trackers and calls to weird domains made by apps that shouldn't make them. Upside is, it's system-wide.

Wrote a post about that https://weekly.elfitz.com/2019/02/12/block-ads-and-trackers-...

But the best setup (still haven't done it) would probably be pi-hole, remotely accessible over some vpn (because you don't want to manage what would otherwise amount to a publicly accessible DNS server). It would cover all your apps and devices.

My setup is Firefox with the usual about:config modifications (search for it)


Ad Nauseum

Smart Referer

Decentralized Eyes

https everywhere

Cookie autodelete

VPN with ipv6 turned off since they don't reroute that

With uMatrix I also block all first party cookies and scripts by default and white list as needed.

This only breaks websites the first time you visit them. Only thing that becomes an issue is uMatrix but as you Whitelist the sites you need it just ends up not being a big deal.

Very similar to what I have. May I recommend using containers? It works wonders and gives me peace of mind.

I'm mildly surprised that no one has mentioned [Better](https://better.fyi). Works very well for me.

The pitch:

Better uses our own list of blocking rules, curated and maintained by Ind.ie. We use the principles of Ethical Design to decide what should be blocked. This is our only blocking criteria, advertisers cannot pay us to compromise our integrity and unblock them.

Better does not block respectful ads. Respectful ads respect human rights, human effort, and human experience. For an example of respectful ads, see The Deck network, winner of our first Cloud of Fame award.

> I'm mildly surprised that no one has mentioned [Better](https://better.fyi).

It only works on Apple’s platforms, and the OP didn’t specify what they’re using. Furthermore, it’s just a Safari Content Blocker with (last I checked) a single list, meaning it has a hard limit of 50k rules, “curated” by (by their own admission) “a tiny two-person-and-one-husky” team.

I’m glad it works for you (and many others), but for a tech-savvy crowd that cares about long-term effectiveness, that’s an inferior solution.

I don't want to see any ads, under any circumstances, ever.


You block domains at the dns, you can download a variety of block lists and you can also create your own. You can log the dns lookups to find out what domains are being used which can be used to further create a block list. The advertising code and tracking code never gets downloaded. Runs on the window pc so you don't have to worry about making changes to anything else upstream, great for laptops and road warriors who use a variety of internet connections.

I use firefox with ublock origin and privacy badger and I can't recall the last time I ran into a site that was broken because of it. But, I visit a fairly narrow section of the internet regularly so there might not be much overlap between what I browse and you browse.

I also use the multi-account container add on and the temporary container add on. This allows me to pin a few big sites to their own containers (google, amazon, etc) and open all other new tabs in temporary containers. This setup works great and appears to help keep firefox fast over time. I use duck duck go to search but firefox makes it trivial for me to re-run a search with google if I need to.

I also run an ad blocking vpn on google cloud using Algo. I use google cloud because the vpn can run on the permanently free tier and I only pay for network traffic (which is near zero), and I also enjoy the irony of it. I have wireguard clients setup on all of my devices to use the vpn either permanently (phone) or on demand (laptops). Having this vpn is nice as it makes it easy to block ads in apps on my kids mobile devices.

This vpn setup works ok but not quite as well as when I ran the same thing using Streisand and open vpn clients. I only say this because I have a homebrew whole-house audio setup with a bunch of google audio chromecasts and no matter how I tweak the wireguard client settings I cannot get that casting to work properly. With open vpn clients, those settings are a cinch.

PS: DuckDuckGo itself makes it trivial to rerun the search with Google, just add "g!" to your search terms and you'll get redirected.

I did some tests and found that privacy badger adds a significant amount of load time. I couldn’t justify it for the minimal effect it has. If you use ublock with firefox’s protections and block third party cookies you are pretty good from a browser point of view.

Interesting. I never really had a firm grasp on the overlap in functionality of ublock origin and privacy badger. I threw privacy badger in the mix at some point as I like the EFF and wanted to give it a whirl. I haven't noticed any sites loading slowly, but I'll do a comparison on some of the sites I use and see if it's slowing things down.

In my case it really made a difference. Close to 1 second in some cases even, which on a total of 3-4 seconds of course is a big deal.

A way to beef up your privacy protections might be to look at DNS filtering. I use dnscrypt-proxy with a blocklist. You can also put trackers in your hosts file in order to route them to https://filterlists.com/ is a nice resource to start out at.

Also every additional extension makes you more fingerprintable.

A bit of a catch 22 - by protecting my privacy (unless I make myself unfingerprintable, which is very difficult) I make myself unique.

Although this isn't exactly blocking, I tend to use Reader View a lot these days. I installed an extension that allows to force using it for any page, and I wish that FF made it default.

What's that extension, if you don't mind sharing?

A Raspberry Pi running Pi-hole[1] works really well in my household. We have 20+ devices and 2 adults, 2 kids, connecting to a combination of wifi and ethernet and all get DNS automatically assigned to the Pi-hole. I routinely see ~ 20-30% of all outgoing DNS requests blocked by the Pi-hole.

Note you don't need a Raspberry Pi to run Pi-hole, you can run it using a Docker image too.

[1] https://pi-hole.net

Does this setup block youtube ads on iPads for example?

Not in the app, but it blocks youtube ads in browser. Blocking ads in YT app is next to impossible with pihole.

yes in the browser

I'd recommend starting with Firefox, and configuring Firefox's cookie settings to always block third party cookies.

Next, if you have a good password manager that can auto-fill logins, set Firefox to delete all cookies (and everything else) when you close the browser. That way, every time you open your browser you're starting from a clean slate. I promise you'll quickly get used to logging in every time, and it won't be that hard.

Next, enable Firefox's Multi-Account Containers add-on. This basically allows you to isolate sites you commonly use into their own cookie realms. Create containers for the sites you want to isolate (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) and set those domains to always open in that domain's container. That way, when you click on a link to Facebook it will auto open a new tab in that Facebook container.

Next, install uBlock Origin. I don't think there's a need to install Privacy Badger since you're already blocking third party cookies, but others please correct me.

Next, for websites that don't work with uBlock Origin, create a dedicated container for that domain and set to always open in that container. Then, whitelist in uBlock Origin whatever tracker on that site you need to run things properly. That way, the tracker is isolated to just that domain's container.

Overall, Firefox's Multi-Account Containers are extremely powerful for isolating site cookies and trackers. I wish they would allow you to set different cookie settings per container, so you could by default clear cookies when you close Firefox and add exceptions for specific containers, but even given that deficiency, is still the most powerful browser feature that's come out since tabs.

I'm also curious about this. A couple years back, I switched from 'AdBlock Plus' to 'uBlock Origin' and the difference was night and day (it blocked SO many more ads).

I've been out of the game for awhile, so I'm wondering what beats uBlock nowadays... Any recommendations?

What you noticed was not really a meaningful difference between the two extensions, but just a difference in the default ruleset subscriptions—which you can manage independently.

> not really a meaningful difference between the two extensions

That is incorrect.

uBlock Origin has filter syntax not found in ABP[1], so there will be a meaningful difference when it comes to what is blocked or not, and also there is a difference due to policy[2].

* * *

[1] https://github.com/gorhill/uBlock/wiki/Static-filter-syntax

[2] https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/j5zk8y/why-your-ad-blocke...

uBlock Origin is still in the game!

Hardly anyone. Still going strong. The first add-on I'd recommend.

Might not be the best setup, but this gives me minimal issues.

1/ Chrome browser with extensions - Disconnect (https://disconnect.me/), Ad blocker, and Anti-Adblock killer script with Tamper monkey.

2/ Cookies disabled by default.

3/ Any sites which refuses to function without them, open in incognito or guest window.

This gives me minimal problems. Most of the tracking is out via Disconnect, many ads are blocked automatically, and the remaining ones I block manually. I will definitely be tracked by a few websites and third-parties, but this gives me a better balance than just focusing on complete block.

To add to it, google provides you an option for not recording searches and location. Also, keep deleting cookies regularly for the ones you have enabled.

I use that setup + a hosts block file, and i recently started using a pi-hole. I also use stylus to block a few custom elements and change themes for a few sites. I mostly visit news sites and some random sites.

The only issues i have had have been on pinterest. What sites do you have issues on?

In regards to using stylus to block a fwe custom elements, you can also use uBO's cosmetic filters[1] instead. Converting stylus' styles to uBO filters is easy enough if all you are using them for is hiding a few elements. I guess this has very limited use to you though if you also use stylus' themes, as it won't let you remove an extension.


Well thank you good to know, ill have to start experimenting to see how well it meets my needs. I mostly use stylus to to dark theme sites , remove side bars footers and headers, then expand the main article column to be 80 - 100% of the page. I really enjoy just reading an article with no distractions. (reddit is a pain)

If you want, I can help you with that some. I know more than I probably should about how uBO filters work.

IMO uBlock Origin in Medium blocking mode is the best "less is more" setup.

[1]: "uBlock Origin in Medium mode for Lighter and Stronger Protection, with Less websites breakage and hassle"


[2]: Blocking mode: medium mode


Currently using Brave Browser, AdBlock Plus and Privacy Badger. For my daily usage, I only have a few sites I need to whitelist.

What does ABP and PB add to Brave? I have used Brave for several months and found it to be excellent from a speed perspective. I sort of always assumed that if it's able to go that much faster than Chrome, it must be blocking most of the nasty trackers. But perhaps I still need to add in some reinforcements?

I think ABP on top of Brave is overkill. I always used uBlock Origin on Chrome and that worked better for me than ABP. Now that I've switched to Brave, I don't have anything additional installed, and I feel like it's blocking almost all of the ads and definitely all of the tracking (in fact, Brave's anti-tracking is sometimes a bit too aggressive and blocks normal function of sites, so I have to disable it on occasion).

I'll give it a shot, I switched from Chrome so I was paranoid

I use a slightly customized version of the Energized Protection[1] block list, which acts as a DNS sinkhole but is really just a text file that you paste into /etc/hosts. Before that I was using Pi-Hole but I found it too cumbersome to maintain properly. (Additionally /etc/hosts entries are way easier to scan, modify and verify for non-maliciousness IMO.)

In my browser I use uMatrix since it gives me fine-grained control over what websites can do. I have very strict default policies that break most sites but you can set them to whatever you want.

Additionally I've written my own regex-based request blocker[2] for YouTube midroll- and page ads since I don't trust other, more opaque ad blocking solutions that handle those (like AdBlock Plus). It does break all other Google services I'm aware of however. (Which I could patch but I don't really mind.)

[1]: https://github.com/EnergizedProtection/block [2]: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/ytblocker

Oh and I also changed some defaults in Firefox's about:config to disable some integrated services that are likely to include tracking and tracking-vulnerable web APIs. I do realize that this might make me more fingerprintable though.

Don't you notice a slowdown in your connection on using a 20MB hosts file?

In my experience, the size of the hosts file matters on some devices, and some os.

On older versions of Windows, for example, networking and browsing slows noticeably as the size of the host file increases.

The same can be said for rootable mobile devices, though it’s less noticeable off WiFi because cellular latency is so much higher.

I would guess, marginal consumer and home routers will suffer with larger hosts files, but I don’t have sufficient experience to claim this for certain.

Background: years of discussions and issues at https://github.com/StevenBlack/hosts, which I maintain.

No, I don't, but years ago [eons], hosts files tended to redirect to, which does incur a penalty. Directing to [invalid IP] does not (or not any more).

Not at all.

I also just checked via dig if there is any slowdown and dig didn't report any. (I first queried google.com with the large hosts file, then replaced the hosts file with a default one, cleaned my DNS caches and requeried and it didn't show any speedup.)

Furthermore, I don't know how Pi-Hole works internally so I don't know if it's somehow specially optimized compared to /etc/hosts or implements any caching strategies but wouldn't introducing another server in your DNS chain slow things down more than /etc/hosts which is always present anyways?

Besides disabling JavaScript you can put hosts file blocklists. This is much faster.

Simple corporation block list (e.g. Facebook, Google) https://github.com/jmdugan/blocklists/tree/master/corporatio...

"Someone Who Cares" list http://someonewhocares.org/hosts/

Ultimate Hosts Blacklist: 1 million blocked domains (once in a while you might need to unblock something) and also a bonus known hacking IP blocklist (prevents common hacking sources). https://github.com/mitchellkrogza/Ultimate.Hosts.Blacklist

If you have iOS device install an ad blocker app like AdBlock Fast, this plugs to practically all web sessions in the phone.

Cookiebro is a great cookie manager since it supports both blacklist and whitelist and can even block single cookies. It also has a built-in Cookie Editor and Cookie Log for monitoring which sites are trying to set cookies.


at home, https://pi-hole.net/ on the go, i use some combination of ublock, noscript, and their equivalents

pi-hole over ZeroTier so I can get it wherever I am and latest Firefox with the most secure custom privacy setup. Nothing seems to break but I don't use things like Facebook and Twitter so wouldn't know about them (seems pointless to try to stay private if you're on them anyway.)

PiHole + Little Snitch + JSBlocker on macOS Mojave

JSBlocker is cranked up to to the max - no inline JS, or frames or videos, etc. Then as I go about info surfing I progressively enable services that are vetted like some content delivery services, common JS frameworks, etc.

Makes the web actually tolerable.

I posted this somewhere else before, so I will just repost as the answer did not change that much.

I use Safari with JS and cross-tracking disabled on macOS and iOS, Firefox with a custom user.js on elementaryOS. I enable JS only when necessary — looking at you, Help Scout.

For actual blocking, I run a Pi-hole on a VPS that connects to multiple DNSCrypt servers that I control, which block everything I want while improving privacy. Planning on replacing Pi-hole with AdGuard Home for DNS over HTTPS and DNS over TLS, since I want to have this server public at some point, for others to use.

If anyone is interested in testing, shoot me an email at root@jamespond.co. No logging, DNSSEC, disk encryption, Canonical Livepatch, 24/7 monitoring and completely open source.


I'm using that exact setup and I can't remember when it broke anything. Now uMatrix breaks everything, but that may be for the best. If the modern web is working, you're the product.

Check out the no script Firefox add on. If u go to a website that pops up a big screen saying disable ad block u can right click the screen blocking and remove it and bam website works perfect

AdGuard for Android works fairly well. I may spring for the premium version.

Elsewhere I use LittleSnitch on my Mac, followed by Firefox (w/associates plugins like everyone else).

Cookie Autodelete is a good one. Simple to configure what cookies you want. Doesn't get in the way while still deleting the cookies you don't opt to keep.

I use a Pi-Hole and on top of that uBlock Origin. Seems a pretty nice combination. For privacy though, you need to know what level of privacy you're aiming for. At a certain point, adblockers and tracking protectors won't help and you're better of with something like Tor. For like, general daily use though, I very much recommend a Pi-Hole + uBlock Origin. Oh, and Firefox, not Chrome, for obvious privacy reasons.

I use a custom built pfSense router running pfBlocker. The web broken, websites that won't function without adtracking doesn't deserve to be visited.

I use Brave browser plus adguard dns. They support dnscrypt and I've got it enabled on my OpenWrt router. Adguard does break the internet a little bit because they block those tracking links that quickly redirect you to the website that you wanted to go to. I think that the Pi-hole is a better option if you need or want to do any personalized customization to your block list.

I'm not that paranoid and I don't really care about blocking ads, just the most egregious tracking. So I use Disconnect and rarely see ads or "please disable your ad blocker", and when I do see ads, I just shrug it off.

I don't know how efficient it is for tracking, but at least I have the moral high ground of going after blocking tracking, not ads in general ...

so, this isn't for everyone, but I like the uBlock Origin + uMatrix combo.

This will break a lot at first, but uMatrix allows you to build a whitelist easily, and slowly over time website won't be broken half as much, and it'll be exceptionally rare for you to have to disable the whole extension whenever you want things to get working again.

The basic functionality of uMatrix is actually built into uBlock Origin. That's the setup I use. I have all 3rd party scripts and frames blocked by default and allow them on a per-site basis as required. After a while you get a sense for which domains need to be let through for a site to work

I'm using Firefox with uBlock Origin (+ social network blocking lists), Decentraleyes and Firefox Multi Account Containers.

I put every "big data" collector (Google, FB, etc.) in a single container using FMAC.

(And to be honest: I tried uMatrix but it was too work intensive.)

Pihole unfortunately doesn't block YouTube ads anymore. Anyone found a solution for that?

UBlock Origin on Mac and 1Blocker X on iOS. Pretty happy, only have to whitelist occasionally. But it’s usually a surprise and I struggle until I realize one of my blockers is interfering with a site I want access to.

Pihole on a raspberry pi ZeroW and ublock origin for desktop and Adblock plus for mobile.

I love ublock’s ability to easily block individual elements of a page such as distracting video or moving crap.

What are the sites that are not "working" with your setup?

I use uBlock Origin and disable JavaScript by default, then instead of enabling those things when sites break, I choose to be more discerning about the websites I visit instead.

The following doesn't break my everyday browsing:

uBlock Origin, Decentraleyes, httpseverywhere, DNS over HTTPS (currently Cloudflare, but plan to use my own resolver soon)

I honestly get relatively little site breakage; so I'm just fine with that. But if you're having issues I would suggest reek anti-adblock killer.

Setups which are data sinks giving minimal info about end users are the best.

If you outsource processing/filtering, that data has commercial value eventually.

I use Pi-hole on the network level, then 1Blocker as a content blocker. It blocks add and analytics trackers, and works on macOS and iOS.

z_open's setup is really good. Very similar to mine. A site that has helped me learn enormously about this is privacytools.io. I designed my config based on their suggestions. There are a tons of privacy conscious alternatives to everyday software.

Many of the configs you are going to see here can be reasoned through the suggestions at their site.

> What's the best setup these days for ad-blocking + privacy/tracker-blocking that doesn't break the web?

If one doesn't want to break the web, they shouldn't block ads since most of the web is free thanks to ads.

I use a blacklist approach and only block ads on those websites which clearly have no consideration for usability (popups, autoplaying videos, ...) or for privacy.

I have found that Unlock Origin is great for this approach.

> If one doesn't want to break the web, they shouldn't block ads since most of the web is free thanks to ads.

Things you pay for with your privacy and attention aren't free.

If you visited a website and they charged your bank account without your permission, that would be theft. If you visit a website and they take your data and attention without your permission, that's also theft. I don't agree to the self-serving assumption I've somehow agreed to pay for your content on your terms simply by visiting your webpage. You don't have the moral high ground here.

I'm old enough to remember when people put content onto the internet because they wanted to, not because it brought them ad revenue. The internet was better then, and many of those old-style websites are still the best sources of information on the internet. I also pay for content with money, and that content tends to be much higher-quality. If all the businesses supported by ad revenue go out of business, I'm pretty okay with that.

Then do not use those websites, if their morality doesn't suit you.

In your words, using a service without paying for it is also theft.

So it's your position that if I send an HTTP request for the public homepage of a public website to a publicly accessible server and that server sends me a response, I'm stealing that response? I'm obligated to render all the content you send me, and run all the code, just because you sent it to me?

No. If you don't want me to see your content, don't send it to me.

If you want me to agree to do something before looking at your content, then send me a contract of some sort and don't send me the content until I agree to the terms of your contract. Otherwise, I haven't agreed to do anything for you just because you sent me your content.

I'll also point out that you said upthread:

"If one doesn't want to break the web, they shouldn't block ads since most of the web is free thanks to ads."

First you say it's free, then you stay I'm stealing it? Which is it, are they free or am I obligated to pay for them?

Imagine if other businesses worked this way. You hear a store is giving away books, so you go and ask them for a free book, and they say, sure, yes, the books are free! But as you're reading the book, you come to a page where it says that by accepting a free book you've agreed to also read a packet of marketing materials for the bookstore, send them a DNA sample, and spend some time mining gold for them. And no, you can't give the "free" book back, you've already started reading it so if you don't do what the bookstore demands, that would be stealing!

I guess the stuff you're talking about totally falls under my "only block ads on those websites which clearly have no consideration for usability [...] or for privacy"

I didn't say that ads are great. I said that NOT ALL ads are bad, and without them some great content couldn't exist, because most people need funds for their work and selling stuff or services sometimes isn't an option.

So if you're talking about tracking ads, I'm totally with you. But if you're talking about ALL ads, then your idea may be an utopia.

> I said that NOT ALL ads are bad

Ads are inherently trying to make me want something I don't want, so I'd say that all ads are bad.

> most people need funds for their work and selling stuff or services sometimes isn't an option.

Why is that, exactly?

Nobody has to sell ads. If you business only works because you sell ads, your business model doesn't (or shouldn't) work. I don't think that we as a society benefit from propping up businesses who produce content that is so low-quality that nobody would pay money for it.

> So if you're talking about tracking ads, I'm totally with you.

What ads aren't tracking me? There are only a few ad networks who even claim not to track you, and it's unclear how many ads those companies actually serve up--it's certainly not a large portion of the ads on the internet. And as far as I know none of the ad companies out there have open-sourced their code, so whether they're telling the truth is a big open question. Advertisers certainly have lied about this in the past. Apple, for example, has been dinged for this a few times, while trying to sell itself as a privacy advocating company.

WITH evidence, click through and conversion rates are very low already, so it's pretty hard to persuade advertisers to advertise without collecting as much data about you as possible. So nearly all the ads out there are tracking ads. Even if you only accept that all tracking ads are bad, the word "tracking" is only a minor technicality.

I use PolicyControl in Chrome and it works great. I can have fine grained control over each site.

PiHole with Cloudflare DNS

I just use DuckDuckGo’s privacy plugin, that seems to kill most ads.

Pi-Hole at the Home Router.

1Bocker for Safari.

uBlock Origin for Chrome.

I have a multi-tiered adblocking environment at home and abroad.

At home, I have AdGuardHome installed in a VM acting as my home network's DNS. It's pretty effective and is an alternative to PiHole. This is a first-tier filter I have while at home for all my devices. https://github.com/AdguardTeam/AdGuardHome/

On the web browser, I have the AdGuard Firefox extension. https://adguard.com/en/adguard-browser-extension/firefox/ove...

For my mobile phone, it's a little obtuse but relatively straightforward. I have a non-rooted Android phone. I've installed AdGuard for Android there as well. The way it works is it runs a local VPN on my phone, so all device traffic goes through a localhost proxy, which filters the DNS and unencrypted TCP traffic. For HTTPS filtering, it installs a local TLS CA to perform re-signing of websites (you can configure it to ignore EV certificates, as I have, which are more common with online banks and more secure sites). It works pretty well with exception to apps that have built-in ad platforms like Instagram. It blocks 100% of ads in apps like Wunderground, Reddit, and Firefox. https://adguard.com/en/adguard-android/overview.html. There's also an iOS version of the app on their website.

I have a Google Play Music subscription which comes with YouTube Premium. However, more and more YouTubers are diversifying their revenue, and have gone to completely sponsored videos with embedded ads. For sponsored clips in YouTube, SponsorBlock extension: https://github.com/ajayyy/SponsorBlock

Decentraleyes [sic] is another extension that I use primarily on my phone, but also at work. It allows the web browser to use local versions of CSS/JS frameworks and fonts that would otherwise have to load from CDNs that track your requests. Things like jQuery, Bootstrap, AngularJS, FontAwesome, etc. are all loaded from local copies through this extension. This benefits the user by saving bandwidth and page load time as well as stopping unwanted tracking from the remote party. https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/decentraleyes...

Don't Fuck With Paste. This extension prevents websites from disabling pasting in form fields. Extremely useful when you are using a password manager to enter form data or just copying and pasting from another location. Websites that break paste are just as bad as websites that serve ads in my book. https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/don-t-fuck-wi... (it's also available for Chrome).

If you know someone or you yourself actually still use Facebook, I also highly recommend Social Fixer. Not only does it block Facebook ads and other page elements, but it lets you keep track of other events like who unfriends you. It has a lot of options and I've been using it for years. https://socialfixer.com/

Worth checking out are NoScript extension, PiHole, and UBlock Origin. I don't use these but I've heard good things about them and everyone seems to recommend them.

Nobody mentioned Waterfox?

step one is definitely to get off chrome

cli or FFX + ublock origin, ABP, FB container


Use Brave :)

For Apple folks: Ka-Block! for Safari, both iOS and Mac, second Firefox Focus's content blocker on iOS. Always on VPN mobile and desktop. Always Private browsing mode everywhere. Kills 99% of germs :)

I don't mess with browser extensions anymore, I just use Brave: https://brave.com

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