As a remote freelance software developer, I spend the vast majority of my life connected to the internet in some shape or form. In fact the internet is pretty much like oxygen, without it my life would be over. In this post I will provide some tips on how to regain some of your internet privacy.
I use the internet to research, read, investigate and work. On an average day, I estimate that I could easily visit between 20-30 websites, some will be regular check in points others my be a one-off drive by or even just a quick browse. The one common element of all these websites is that, like ironically myself, will be use advertising in some form or other to boost earnings.
The downside to all this advertising on websites is that they are often distracting, especially if you are in work mode, and inevitably it means you are being tracked and your privacy invaded . Most advertising schemes place a cookie, to track which websites you visit. This information is then used to profile you, apparently anonymously, in order to provide more adverts for products which may appeal to you.
This results in a lot data about you and your interests being made available to a number of organisations, and the odds are more organisations who have access to your data the greater your chances are of being exposed to internet fraud or identity theft.
Fortunately there are some relatively easy steps you can take to attempt to reduce interruptions, distractions and data leakages. I’ll provide 3 of my favourite solutions I implement.
I have posted before about Duck Duck Go and I have been using it for over a year now as my default search engine. In a nutshell, Duck Duck Go does not record your search data, it doesn’t track you and unlike Google it does not make its money from advertising revenues therefore it has no incentive to store data about you.
Adblock Plus is a browser plugin that does what it says on the tin. It blocks ads from appearing. Leaving you with nothing more than the actual web page you intentionally want to view without any distractions.
Adblock Plus is available for all leading browsers and its free.
Ghostery enables you to control the which services you want to track you. It does take a bit of time and effort to get it set up. It’s default setting of blocking all services may actually cause some websites to stop functioning correctly, due in part that some websites will have tracking and monitoring so deeply ingrained. However, I have found that with Ghostery I have been able to find out the extent of services, beacons and trackers that are actually out there.
Initially I had Ghostery set up to display a bubble on every website, notifying me which services were actually being used. Gradually I got to know them and starting switching off the ones I felt I didn’t need. I even noticed huge speed improvements on a vast majority of websites I frequently visit. It has also enabled me to avoid websites which are of very little content value.
Taking the steps above will help you to safeguard your privacy online. Advertising and marketing are essential for commerce but I would be the first to admit that there must be limits on the amount of data these companies should be allowed to gather, but I would say it shouldn’t be left to governments or other regulators to enforce this and individuals need to be empowered to enforce the limitations.