Extension enhances privacy of all embedded YouTube videos

Get better privacy for embedded YouTube videos with the Privacy Enhanced Mode for Embedded YouTube Videos extension for Firefox.

Websites like to embed YouTube videos in marketing materials, blog posts, and news stories. It’s much cheaper to offload the bandwidth costs required for hosting high-quality video on a large company like YouTube, and most users get a good experience on most devices most places in the world. It’s a win–win situation, right?

The elephant in the room is the data collection that happens through embedded content. When embedding a video, you also invite third-parties to track and record information about the interests and movements of people who visit the page. I urged people to stop embedding content over privacy concerns back in 2014. The European Parliament made websites responsible for the data harvesting that happens on their sites (even by third-parties) with the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

YouTube normally collects data about you when you land on any webpage with their videos embedded on them even if you don’t start or interact with the video. However, YouTube offers an alternative embedding method called Privacy Enhanced Mode that reduces the tracking and reduces the amount of data that’s being collected and the numbers of cookies involved. It also prevents watched videos from appearing in your watched-videos history on YouTube. Meaning that you can watch random YouTube clips you encounter on the web without having these videos impact your video recommendations on YouTube.

Traditionally, websites have had to actively seek out and switch on the Privacy Enhanced Mode for their embedded videos. (Never mind that the GDPR theoretically should have made this mode the new default.) YouTube videos work the same in Privacy Enhanced Mode but without all the persistent tracking.

I made a quick extension for Firefox that lets users opt-in to Privacy Enhanced Mode for all YouTube embedded videos on all websites all over the web. Clicking on the YouTube logo or video title will open the main YouTube website and take the move the video out of Privacy Enhanced Mode.

Get this Mozilla Firefox add-on Get source on GitHub

The extension does all its magic in the background and is entirely opaque to the user. However, you can find a running tally of how many embedded videos have been upgraded to Privacy Enhanced Mode by opening the extension’s option page from the Add-Ons Manager. Login to Firefox Sync to keep a tally of the extension’s effectiveness across all your devices.

The extension isn’t all that complex: all it does is block the browser from communicating with youtube.com/embed/ and redirects those requests to youtube-nocookie.com/embed/ instead.

Just to be clear: This has no effect on the main YouTube website. Oh, and as a bonus you may find that embedded videos load faster with Privacy Enhanced Mode enabled.