Jens Oliver Meiert

Privacy, Obscurity: Randomizing New Tabs

Post from November 10, 2016 (↻ May 22, 2018), filed under .

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.

New Tab Traffic Randomizer placeholder screenshot.

Figure: Extension design decisions took precisely .2 seconds.

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, and likewise its source can be inspected and improved at GitHub. I don’t know why one person thought that extension was only worth one star though—resets are still a malpractice, and the extension notifications subtle.

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

About the Author

Jens Oliver Meiert, photo of September 22, 2018.

Jens Oliver Meiert is an author and developer (O’Reilly, W3C, ex-Google). He plays with philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on he shares and generalizes and exaggerates some of his thoughts and experiences.

There’s more Jens in the archives and at Goodreads. If you have any questions or concerns (or recommendations) about what he writes, leave a comment or a message.

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Awareness, honesty, responsibility.