I absolutely hate online advertising, junk mail, and spam. More and more I rail against the intursion of advertising into every nook and cranny of our virtual and real lives. First it was ads in news print, magazines, radio, TV, billboards, flyers, t-shirts, sky writing, etc. Then the assult on our eye balls via Internet and mobile devices through web sites, news feeds, video clips, text messages, social media feeds, computer applications; its just appauling. Add into the mix the personal information gathered and data mining that make advertisers and governments drool, there has to be a line drawn somewhere and a push back by the public to say enough is enough. Big Brother can go frak himself.
Now I’ve been using the Internet for a long time, since university in the late 1980’s and BBS’ before that. So I have a long and established digital foot print, from free software offerings, newsgroup postings, programming contests, several domain names, a blog, twitter, and who knows what else. So finding out something about me and my past is not that hard if you know how to thread together the diverse information.
Still despite all that, I still endeavour to protect my online privacy with a good measure of success. Here is an outline the steps I’ve taken:
Use a browser that has good “cookie” management and a variety of add-ons, like Firefox. Chrome is a fast browser, has good cookie controls, and supports many of the add-ons available for Firefox, I have privacy concerns since it is built by Google and integrates into some of the very services that track you on-line. I’m less familiar with Opera.
Disable third-party cookie support. Also consider being prompted about every cookie request, or at the very least auto-delete them all when you close the browser, effectively forcing session only cookies.
I typically block all cookies by default, making exceptions only when a site a really want to use requires them in order to function, especially all advert and metrics cookies. Sometimes this level of cookie management is only for the power-user, in which case accepting cookies and deleting (or adding exceptions) when the browsers exits is easier.
Enable the “
Do Not Track” option supported by many browsers.
In Firefox visit the about:config, find the option
network.http.sendRefererHeader, and set the value to zero (0).
Install Adblock Plus available for Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and Android.
For Firefox, install Beef Taco for enabling tracking advertising cookie opt-out (TACO).
Install the DoNotTrackMe browser add-on. Similar to Beef Taco, but more widely available and covers other tracking methods.
Purchase a one-time consumer license and install MalwareBytes Anti-malware Pro with on-access protection enabled. I’ve found this software to be superior, faster, and more accurate than all the anti-virus products I’ve used in the past. It also blocks access to suspicious IP addresses by applications. Firefox and Chrome have a similar built facility, but MailwareBytes does it for all the other network applications.
For the power-users, learning how to edit and use
C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc\hosts(Windows) to block advertising sites. Similar to what the add-ons do, but applicable to all network applications. I’ve used it to block advertising in AIM, ICQ, and Skype at a minimum. Essentially you find out the hostname of an advert service and add it to the hosts list with an IP address of 127.0.0.1, which redirects those advert requests to locahost (your computer), which then go unanswered.
Firefox now defaults to secure Google searches over SSL using
https://www.google.com/. However your search terms can still “bleed through” to web sites you click on from the results. This can be fixed by copying (assuming Windows):
C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\searchplugins\google.xml
to your personal profile:
Then edit the
google_encrypted.xmlfile and replace
www.google.comevery where with
encrypted.google.com. Also change:
Restart Firefox and make
GoogleSecyour default search engine (click the drop-list beside the search logo and select “Manage Search Engines”.
Its unclear why Google Chrome does not use SSL searches by default, but a similar change can be made in Chrome. Simply go to Settings > Manage Search Engines, click on the Google URL template, change
https://encrypted.google.com, and click