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  • Writer's pictureBrent Payne

Introducing the Referrer Policy: Elevating Web Security

In the realm of web security, the introduction of the "Referrer Policy" header marks a significant advancement. As web technologies evolve, so too do the measures to protect sensitive information transmitted during web browsing. The Referrer Policy header is a testament to this continuous effort, offering website owners the ability to control the amount of referral information shared across websites.

Understanding the Referrer Policy

When a user navigates from one webpage to another, the browser typically sends a `Referer` header to the destination site, indicating the URL of the originating page. This referral data is invaluable for analytics, understanding user navigation, and enhancing security. However, it can also pose privacy and security risks, especially when sensitive information is included in URLs. This is where the Referrer Policy comes into play.

How Does the Referrer Policy Work?

The Referrer Policy header allows a website to specify how much of the referrer information should be included with requests. This level of control ensures that sensitive information is not inadvertently disclosed through HTTP headers, thus safeguarding user privacy and data integrity.

Options Available in Referrer Policy

The Referrer Policy header offers several directives, each catering to different privacy and security needs:

- `no-referrer`: Ensures that no referrer information is sent along with requests.

- `no-referrer-when-downgrade`: Default behavior, preventing the referrer from being sent from HTTPS to HTTP.

- `same-origin`: Only sends the referrer for same-origin requests.

- `origin`: Sends the origin part of the URL, without the path.

- `strict-origin`: Similar to `origin`, but ensures HTTPS origin information is not sent to HTTP.

- `origin-when-cross-origin`: Sends full URL for same-origin requests but only the origin for cross-origin requests.

- `strict-origin-when-cross-origin`: A more secure version of `origin-when-cross-origin`.

- `unsafe-url`: Sends the full URL, regardless of security considerations.

Implementing the Referrer Policy

Implementing the Referrer Policy on your website is straightforward. You can specify your preferred policy directly in the HTTP response headers or use a `<meta>` tag within your HTML documents.

For example:

<meta name="referrer" content="no-referrer">

Or, in your HTTP headers:

Referrer-Policy: no-referrer

Choosing the Right Policy

Selecting the appropriate Referrer Policy depends on your specific needs and security posture. For most websites, `no-referrer-when-downgrade` offers a good balance between privacy and functionality. However, if you handle sensitive information, consider more restrictive policies like `strict-origin-when-cross-origin`.


The introduction of the Referrer Policy header is a welcome addition to the suite of security measures available to web developers. By carefully selecting and implementing the appropriate Referrer Policy, website owners can significantly enhance the privacy and security of their web interactions. As the web continues to evolve, such measures will play an increasingly critical role in protecting both users and information online.


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