I have something to hide. I'm not interested in publicly sharing my vents on relationships or society. I want the chats with my children on their adolescent frustrations to stay private. My notes on procrastination and lost opportunities stays with me. Same with visits to some websites, and mailing list memberships.
A visit to msn.com activates 12 trackers, visualized by the free Disconnect plugin which blocks known trackers...
Forget about a bewildering number of privacy options in account settings, or your browser's do-not-track option, they will most likely be ignored. The major problem is fingerprinting.
From the information your browser shares when requesting a webpage, a unique fingerprint is stealthily created. The fingerprint is a combination of screen size, browser plugins, device, language settings, operating system, IP-address, etc
Research by the EFF Electronic Frontier Foundation shows that 84% of internet users have a unique configuration, which is used to track you across the web.
Reducing your digital footprint is fairly straightforward, although it is impossible to completely evade all forms of online tracking.
One very simple step with a huge effect
Privacy Badger is a free install-and-forget plugin that stops trackers from secretly identifying and following you on the web - and gives you an option with click-to-activate placeholders for embedded players and social media widgets.
No configuration, no settings, no cost. Install and forget. Privacy badger does not block ads, it blocks the scripts tracking you across the web. It monitors the behavior of tracking scripts on web pages and disables them when necessary.
A somewhat bigger step
Switch to the Firefox browser. Yes, I know, it was slow and frustrating. I stopped using Firefox a few years ago, switching to Chrome. But things have changed. Mozilla Foundation have put massive efforts into responsiveness, privacy, and the user interface during the last year. I wrote a separate post about it ...
Firefox has enabled a cookie-jar where information is isolated to the site you visit, it can not be shared with third parties who want to listen in on what you're up to. It also does a really good job of blocking fingerprints and social media trackers.
Firefox is maintained by the non-profit Mozilla foundation - they have no incentive to allow trackers.
A solution for your home network
Pi-Hole blocks ads and trackers on your home network - every phone, computer, smart-TV, tablet, gaming console and 'Smart Home' device, they are all protected.
Somewhat technical to set up, yes, but no monthly costs for protecting any number of devices makes it worth it. Since Pi-Hole also block ads, the browsing experience will be faster.
The PiHole can run on pretty much any hardware, not just the Raspberry Pi. Basic block-lists are included, you can add more from firebog.net
The admin panel in a web browser looks like this...
If you have kids at home you can block porn, gambling, gore, phishing, and malware sites, depending on which blocklists you activate. Parent's computers and phones can be whitelisted for unrestricted access.
Cover photo by Yan Krukau / Pexels