For those concerned with protecting their privacy, the Opera browser is an excellent choice, and comes with tools that protect against those who would hope to surveil you. With the release of Opera 64, it adds another weapon to that arsenal with the inclusion of tracker blockers, which the company says increases browsing speed by up to 20 percent.
Trackers are small computer programs used by online advertisers to follow people across the Internet, allowing them to provide targeted targeted adverts based on previous activity, or documented interests. They’re one way the online advertising industry is trying to optimize their offering in the face of increasing AdBlocker usage, as well as their diminishing share of global advertising spending.
But they’re also horrible.
Trackers are awful from a privacy perspective, but also actively undermine the browsing experience, causing sites to take longer to load. That’s because your browser has to download these trackers (plural, because sites often include multiple tracking scripts, each often measuring hundreds of kilobytes), and then execute them.
By blocking them, your browser does less work. This means it’s able to serve you the content you care about faster.
Tracker blocking is nothing new. Third-party tracker blocking extensions are available for most major web browsers, including Google Chrome and Firefox. That said, it’s particularly cool to see the feature baked into a major web-browser.
The tracker blocker used by Opera is built upon an open-source database of trackers, the EasyPrivacy Tracking Protection List. Users can choose to have it available for every website, or deactivate it for specific websites. That toggle is useful because many websites choose to block access to users with an adblocker or tracker blocker enabled.
This feature is the latest privacy-preserving tool rolled out by Opera. The browser also includes a free VPN, which is a byproduct of Opera’s 2015 acquisition of Canadian VPN startup SurfEasy. Since 2016, Opera has also included a built-in adblocker, which protects against intrusive adverts that degrade the user experience.
Opera 64 is available on Windows, MacOS, and Linux. You can download it here.