Note: This post applies primarily to Mozilla Firefox.
RefControl is a handy little add-on that stops websites from knowing what site you were on previously. Using RefControl is a simple way to help keep your browsing history private and help stop websites from tracking you.
How does RefControl work?
RefControl changes the HTTP Referer [sic] that your browser sends to any website you visit. It can change the Referer to just about anything if you want it to, although the “Block” and/or “Forge” options are really all you’ll need to use.
What is the HTTP Referer?
When you visit a website, your browser sends a little line of information about what website led you to the site you’re visiting. For example, if you Google “Amazon Shopping” and click on Amazon.com, your browser will send Amazon the Referer “google.com” because that’s where you came from.
This information is called the HTTP Referer, which is indeed a misspelling of “referrer.”
Your HTTP Referer is used by websites to track how you move through their sites and what other sites are linking to them. While potentially useful, those of you that are privacy-conscious will want to stop it.
How do I install RefControl?
RefControl is available from Mozilla’s add-on site. Installation is the same as any other add-on; click on “Add to Firefox” and allow it to install. You may need to restart Firefox after installation.
How do I use RefControl?
RefControl is always active unless you halt it, so you don’t need to do anything special for it to work.
However, if you want to change how it acts (either in general or for a specific website), you can go into your add-ons menu and click on RefControl’s Options. Click Edit to change the default setting or click Add Site to change a specific site’s setting.
- “Normal” will effectively deactivate RefControl and leave the Referer unchanged.
- “Block” will send nothing instead of a Referer, as though you typed in the web address by hand.
- “Forge” will send the site you’re visiting, as though the site’s front page linked you.
- “Custom” can be just about anything you want.
Tip of the week: Empty your Recycle Bin regularly.