Does Adblock Plus behave, or does it phone home or collect information about you? I'm using Tor Browser Bundle, but I don't like ads very much, so I want to use an adblocker, so long as it's safe to do so.


7 Answers 7


as the saying goes, anonymity likes company. so by installing ABP you're essentially sticking out of the TBB crowd more than a regular user, as your browser does not behave exactly like the others. see https://www.torproject.org/projects/torbrowser/design/ 2.3 #5

Users are free to install these addons if they wish, but doing so is not recommended, as it will alter the browser request fingerprint.

ABP may not collect information on you, but since you increase fingerprintability, other actors might

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    I assume that many ads are always tracking users even if they don`t click them,compare to browser fingerprint,which are more dangerous? Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 5:46
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    fingerprintability is not about not being tracked, it is about looking alike. i would argue that if an adversary is interested in what you are doing, increasing your fingerprintability is more dangerous - because in a group of people with blue hats, you happen to have a red one. tor browser does not retain cookies after the session, making tracking a lot less useful anyway.
    – mroq
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 15:10
  • // , Can you explain what information, exactly, a browser without AdBlock would transmit differently than a browser that had such an improvement? Where could one ask about this? It's IMPORTANT. Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 7:57

Update: Tails moved to uBlock Origin.

tl;dr version:

Tails uses uBlock Origin, if you use the same version, lists and config as Tails you can block most ads and keep a reasonable anonymity set, or you could just use Tails.

Longer version:

Ad-blocking is fingerprintable.

Disabling javascript will not stop it being fingerprintable, an observer can still watch the resources you do or do not load. An adversary can craft a website to enumerate blocking from common lists to determine which website elements you do or do not load, and thus which lists you subscribe to. Using less common lists or special lists will make you stand out further.

Tails ships with uBlock Origin in it's Tor Browser (something that no other answer actually touches on?). If you were to use Tails' uBlock Origin version, lists and configuration you would appear like a Tails user, which would give you a reasonable anonymity set.

Ad-blocking is censorship, you allow third parties to define what you can or cannot see on the web.

Ad-blocking does not defeat tracking. If you subscribe to every list in the world, you will still be subject to tracking because blacklisting never works with 100% efficacy. You should not approach ad-blockers in the belief that they make you less trackable, instead they should be approached as a means to improve your browsing experience if you (like I do) find ads offensive.

Further suggestion:

The Tor Browser should ship with a default ad-blocker. They have legitimate reason to not want to allow some third party to provide a text file that says what will or will not load on the internet for their users. However, that being said people want ad-blockers (not all people all of the time but some people some of the time) and the Tor Browser not shipping with something like ABP or uBlock means that more people are likely to just install some ad-blocker and configure it themselves. This is, ultimately, fragmenting anonymity sets. I feel the Tor Browser should ship with an ad-blocker, with a sensible configuration, that is disabled by default. This would allow users who are going to install one anyway, to be a more homogeneous set.


Don`t worry,Adblock Plus is an open-source extension ,you can see source code here :https://adblockplus.org/en/contribute-code If they dare to put a backdoor for collecting information,they will be reveled in a short time and no one will trust them,then their product will die.

edited:A open-source software doesn`t mean it will never have any backdoor or deadly bug,but compare to close-source software,it is more safety for everyone can check the code and find bugs(or backdoors)more quickly if it has them,especially when there is a big community about develop and test.Tor project have this community,Adblock Plus have it too.So I choose to trust Adblock Plus.

Someone may worry about browser fingerprinting.Yeah,add a extension makes your browser more unique than those who add nothing,but beware most ads(maybe JavaScripts,maybe iframes,maybe flash,maybe HTML5 or others)are always tracking your online activities.Those companies are tracking you,and they can`t be trusted,they are willing to sell your personal information to anyone or just give it out when the government in your country asks for it.And attackers love to put malicious code in ads(ad images or videos ) So which is more dangerous?

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    I know they are open-source, but I'm wondering if they collect information? I understand that you assume they don't because the would be caught, but what if everyone just assumed that someone else will check and nobody actually checked?
    – sashoalm
    Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 11:23
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    You think so?Than you can use the same reason to suspect Tor,"what if everyone just assumed that someone else will check and nobody actually checked?"Well,maybe you can check the source code or find a coder to check for backdoors:)It`s up to you,you choose to trust open-source Adblock Plus or Tor,there is no 100% safety. Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 11:58
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    Open source doesn't guarantee a safe software! OSS is not free from flaws and vulnerabilities, ex: OpenSSL. Plus, as everyone is allowed to request code modification, an attacker can very well infiltrate an Open source project to insert a backdoor, ex: rumors about OpenBSD. The only difference between open and close source are that everyone can check the code, and fixes are quicker to be implemented. But it does not guarantee anything! To assert a software's sanity you have to take into consideration at least the community around it.
    – Irving Poe
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 19:48
  • Well,Irving Poe,you are right.There is always no 100% safety.But I still think Adblock Plus can be trusted for it`s a famous extension and there is a big community around it,just like tor.By the way,you mentioned "rumors about OpenBSD",yet I have never heard anything about it.Any details? Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 5:40
  • Yep, sorry for the late answer (no notification on SE ?). here is a link csoonline.com/article/2136901/data-protection/…
    – Irving Poe
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 12:09

A large majority of ads on today's web rely upon javascript. The Tor Browser Bundle currently includes NoScript which you can set to "Forbid Scripts Globally (advised)." You should see far fewer ads after changing this setting.

If you trust TBB, I think it's justifiable to trust TBB's inclusion of NoScript as an addition that does not "phone home or collect information about you".

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    Yes, NoScript could serve that purpose, but unfortunately I see a lot of broken sites, too. Anyway, my question is not about Adblock replacements.
    – sashoalm
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 8:27
  • // , This answer may help people who came across this while searching for something like "javascript on TBB", and I think it adds context to the question for the sort who need it. +1 Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 8:01
  • Forbid Scripts Globally is "advised" by the NoScript developers. As your link explains, the Tor people do not necessarily agree, due to the privacy trade-offs involved. Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 4:40

Adblock is semi-safe on a non anonymous browser as they do allow "white listed" ads. But for purposes of using with Tor Browser:

Adblock will block the image ads that NoScript can't. Adblock is a very common add-on so I wouldn't fear "fingerprinting". Besides, the more browsers that use Adblock the more we "look" the same.

NoScript doesn't block image ads on many sites (such as porn) as they are not scripted on the "top level". i.e. image ads with scripts underneath - the script is blocked but the image remains.

  • // , Excellent addition to the conversation, Pix! I'm glad to see an answer with a perspective that adds context to this question. Impressive that you've reached 2k people with your first post, lol. Do you have a site that isn't subject to the stackexch. shit show? Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 7:59
  • The only way to be sure about the fingerprintability would be, if the TOR team included some version of an ad blocker extension in the bundle (I'd like that). Otherwise we would need statistics about how many users use TOR with ad blocker and which lists they use, which we don't have. One can only hope, that most users use it exactly the way suggested on the TOR websites. Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 11:35

Wouldn't use it for reasons in answer #1. As long as the javascript is disabled and settings in Tor Browser are kind of ok, there is no clever reason to use something extra.

It will just make you look different.


From what I understand, the Tor browser is a modified Firefox browser. When you install Adblock Plus, it uses filters to block certain traffic. You can choose which filters to use. For example, I am using almost all of the available Adblock Plus filters on my regular FireFox browser. I have not installed Tor yet. The filters I am using are:

1. EasyList

2. EasyPrivacy

3. Disable Malware

4. Fanboy's Social Blocking List

5. There is another which I have disabled: Adblock Warning Removal List. I'm not sure what this is used for.

You can see these filters and what settings you have by clicking on the red Adblock Plus stop sign on your browser and then choosing "Filter Preferences." The filters are listed on the "Filter Subscriptions" tab. Most people probably only use 1 or 2 filters. You can add the other filters by visiting the Adblock Plus website. When these filters are loaded to your list, enabled or disabled, they are updated every so often, probably every 2 or 3 days. When they update, they do contact the easylist page:

1. https://easylist-downloads.adblockplus.org/easylist.txt

2. https://easylist-downloads.adblockplus.org/easyprivacy.txt

3. ...malwaredomains_full.txt

4. ...fanboy-social.txt

5. ...antiadblockfilters.txt

I have never checked to see if Adblock Plus uses the FireFox proxy settings. You would need to use a Windows connections lister such as Nirsoft CPort or Sysinternals TCPView. Keep in mind, these filters are small text files and download very quickly, especially if you have a fast 80Mbit/s connection. Activity on these connections would appear and then disappear very quickly in these listers. Instead of waiting for Adblock Plus to update a filter, you can manually update each individual filter by clicking "Action" and then "update filters."

If you want to block ads and you don't mind the possibility of Adblock Plus knowing your physical location, then you can use Adblock Plus. Finally, when Adblock Plus does phone home, I don't know what information it sends , if it sends any identifying information.

The decision is yours to make.

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