I’m Fed Up With Online Data Tracking
I have a pet peeve, especially in these days of stay at home/work from home due to COVID-19, with all of us on our computers a lot more. This is what I say to many websites and online service providers:
If you want me to subscribe to read your website, forget it.
If you want me to pay you to read your website, (mostly) forget it.
If you want me to turn off my adblocker to read your website, forget it.
Until you demonstrate that you’re not harvesting my email address to track me across the internet, forget it. You can get your marketing data some other way. I value my privacy and anonymity in a tracking, tracing world. I don’t want Big Brother watching me. Big government at every level and private industry most assuredly do NOT know best, especially when it comes to how they use your data.
Keeping It Private
How do I keep my online activities private? I use these products.
The DuckDuckGo web browser (iOS, Android) and search engine block tracking cookies, other third party trackers, IP address sharing, and search term sharing. They also force sites you visit to use encrypted connections, so your ISP can’t track you either. The DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials extension adds a toolbar icon showing a website’s Privacy Grade rating.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) like NordVPN (iOS, Android, Windows, MacOS) re-routes (tunnels) your internet traffic through a remote server, hiding your IP address and encrypting everything you send or receive from the downstream network you then connect to. This is especially important if you access a public network at an airport, restaurant or coffee shop (not really happening now, I know). Public networks are notorious for spoofing and man-in-the-middle data attacks by 3rd party hackers. Since they allow easy access by anyone without passwords or other login credentials, they lack the safeguards your ISP’s paid access network has. Another VPN possibility is AdGuard (iOS, Android).
Adblockers do exactly that – they block third-party ads and trackers. Ghostery (iOS, Android, browser extension) is one of the most popular. You can control which ads and their trackers you block, or just set it to block everything. Adblock Plus is another option. You can configure it to allow what it defines as acceptable ads. Or you can configure for Hide all ads. Purify was one of the early adblockers for the Safari browser on iOS. It still works, but hasn’t been updated in several months. You want an adblocker that’s updated frequently.
Some of these products have overlapping features. AdBlock Plus and Ghostery do the same thing, but Ghostery’s interface allows more selective ad blocking, while AdBlock Plus is the simpler set and forget app. Iolo’s Privacy Guardian also blocks ad-trackers while keeping search history private and clearing cookies on a configurable schedule.
Using AdGuard Pro with NordVPN or any other VPN requires setting it to Split Tunnel mode. This allows traffic to also go through NordVPN or another installed ‘personal’ VPN. What this means is that there’s a lower likelihood of any unprotected data leaks to and from web addresses missed by one product or the other. AdGuard Pro works more generally with all applications on iOS. And one more note – the regular AdGuard app only works with the Safari browser on iOS (iPads and iPhones).
Yes, I started with a rant. But hopefully you’ve discovered something here to keep your web browsing more private.
For the record, the only paid website I use is https://reidreviews.com. Sean Reid reviews Leica, Voigtlander, Sony and other mirrorless camera equipment. I’ve found the information quite useful, and unavailable anywhere else.
DuckDuckGo (nd), Tired of being tracked online? Retrieved from https://duckduckgo.com/
NordVPN (nd) What is a VPN? Retrieved from https://nordvpn.com/what-is-a-vpn/
Adguard.com (nd) How Does VPN Work? Retrieved from https://adguard.com/en/what-is-vpn/how-does-vpn-work.html
TechRadar (November 14, 2017) You need a VPN when accessing public Wi-Fi. Here’s why. Retrieved from https://www.techradar.com/news/public-wi-fi-and-why-you-need-a-vpn
Iolo (nd) Privacy Guardian Online Privacy Protection. Retrieved from https://www.iolo.com/products/privacy-guardian/
Adblock Plus (nd) Allowing acceptable ads in Adblock Plus. Retrieved from https://adblockplus.org/en/acceptable-ads
ProPrivacy (October 30, 2019) What is Split Tunnelling? Retrieved from https://proprivacy.com/vpn/comparison/vpns-for-split-tunneling
CSOonline (Feb 13, 2019) What is a man-in-the-middle attack? Retrieved from https://www.csoonline.com/article/3340117/what-is-a-man-in-the-middle-attack-how-mitm-attacks-work-and-how-to-prevent-them.html