Privacy, Obscurity: Randomizing New Tabs
Post from November 10, 2016 (↻ June 6, 2021), filed under Everything Else.
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.
I’m Jens Oliver Meiert, and I’m an engineering manager and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for Google, I’m close to the W3C and the WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly. Other than that, I love trying things, sometimes including philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.
If you have questions or suggestions about what I write, please leave a comment (if available) or a message.
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Perhaps my most comprehensive book: The Web Development Glossary (2020). With explanations and definitions for literally thousands of terms from Web Development and related fields, building on Wikipedia as well as the MDN Web Docs. Available at Apple Books, Kobo, Google Play Books, and Leanpub.