Privacy, Obscurity: Randomizing New Tabs

Published on November 10, 2016 (↻ October 3, 2023), filed under (RSS feed for all categories).

You want to leave a less predictable online trail *? I wrote a little browser extension for Chrome that accomplishes that: the New Tab Traffic Randomizer. Its source, likely to need a few more sets of eyes, is up on GitHub.

What does the New Tab Traffic Randomizer do? It simply requests a random URL every time a new tab is opened. These URLs themselves are either predefined (currently including Code Responsibly and the EFF), semi-random (one from a pool of pages either generated through Wikipedia or randomrandom), or “really” random (through generating an alphabetical string to be used for a .com hostname).

Why? Less for fun, as other attempts suggest, rather for privacy, through obscurity, as the extension makes traffic patterns a bit more, random. The extension reflects the minimum I had in mind to bring in some element of “surprise” into my own online habits, habits that, so I hope, already focus on basic security and privacy (German readers remember some of the practices I shared with my family).

If you have ideas on how to extend and improve the extension, file an issue or fork and contribute to the project—I’d very much look forward to working on this together with a few more people. Yet everyone else, please just enjoy 😊

Oh. I did something like this before. I wrote a Chrome extension that highlights reset style sheets (still a malpractice), and likewise its source can be inspected and improved at GitHub.

* For whatever the reasons, and I assume perfectly legitimate ones just as I assume responsible use of the extension.

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About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on September 30, 2021.

I’m Jens (long: Jens Oliver Meiert), and I’m a frontend engineering leader and tech author/publisher. I’ve worked as a technical lead for companies like Google and as an engineering manager for companies like Miro, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly and Frontend Dogma.

I love trying things, not only in web development (and engineering management), but also in other areas like philosophy. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.

If you want to do me a favor, interpret charitably (I speak three languages, and they can collide), yet be critical and give feedback for me to learn and improve. Thank you!