I’ve written about privacy trackers for over 7 years on this blog, and have been speaking about them for over a decade. This is an updated article, as technology has advanced in this area.
If you’re really concerned about being tracked online, download and use the tor browser. Full stop.
It’s a bit slower, but it’s the best tool for surfing the internet anonymously. This solves the really hard problem if not allowing the remote websites to know who you are. That’s right, with enough resources, most major websites you go to (and many small ones) have given you a unique identifier, and track your habits across the internet. tor stops that. If you’re looking up a medical condition or concern, want to shop without getting ads on every platform immediately afterwards, are using it at work and don’t want your employer’s network sleuths tracking your, or you are looking up something sensitive in nature you wouldn’t want attached to your name in a newspaper headline, tor is for you.
While many modern browsers now have an incognito mode or private mode, that creates a false sense of security to many of my new customers. All these modes do is remove your tracks from your own computer/device — this makes them only useful for removing your online tracks from a spouse, child, or parent, or anyone who may have access to that device you’re browsing with.
If you’re not trying to go completely anonymous (tor), or hide from your house mates, but want to make it a little harder to be tracked online via privacy trackers, there are two main options. The first one is a new browser called brave, which has a lot of good functionality built in — in terms of blocking privacy trackers. On any given website you can click the lion face logo and see exactly what you’re blocking. It blocks ads, privacy trackers, and many fingerprinting methods by default. This is my default browser for surfing non sensitive information. As an aside, it also allows you to download torrents and watch movies right within the browser, as well as handles a cryptocurrency called BAT that allows you to tip blog authors and websites you frequent.
If you’re resistant to change and want to maintain a tried and true browser like Chrome or Firefox, do make sure you’re using their more privacy centric versions such as Iridium or Firefox Focus.
I don’t normally recommend ever installing a plugin in your browser, as a malicious plugin developer gets access to every website you visit if you have their plugin installed. This recommendation is no exception, but it will prove enlightening to most how relevant and sticky privacy trackers are. Install the uMatrix plugin for Chrome or for Firefox and you will immediately see how websites don’t function at all until you start allowing privacy trackers. This plugin requires a lot of work, and will move you quickly to being an advanced user. The easier option(s) are using tor and brave browsers, depending on your needs.
When you think you’ve got a privacy-centric browsing solution in place, head over to EFF’s panopticlick and give it a test to see if you’re safe against tracking. Then find out how unique your browser fingerprint is with amiunique.org. Happy private surfing!