The first thing you should understand is nearly everyone tracks you. This isn’t meant to be scary, as not everyone uses the information for malicious purposes. Nearly every site you use enables a „cookie“ to be stored on your computer. A cookie is merely any form of data stored in your web browser that is sent from a website.
Cookies aid in many things, such as if you choose a website to „remember“ your username or password or for information filled out on forms when you press the „back“ button. However cookies also store information to be used in ways that you may not want them to use it for, such as, but not limited to:
Your IP address: A unique set of numbers that can be used to identify you, and your ISP (Internet Service Provider) and possibly lead to them discovering your identity, given certain circumstances.
Tracking your Internet activity: Some services/websites such as DoubleClick are enabled onto various websites, giving them access to store cookies on your machine, which are used to track your website visits, history and searches..
Creating „profiles“ of you: Many marketing and advertising business deal with consumer habits. What do you buy? What did you search to find the product you bought? Why did that appeal to you? What are your interests, hobbies, your job, income, family life? As freakishly conspiracy-theorist crazy this might sound, your personal information is constantly sold and passed around major companies that you’ve most likely never heard of. They own a „profile“ of your information, containing what makes up your consumer habits, which is then used to deliver personalized advertisements to pages such as on Google services.
Now that I’ve scared you with information on what companies may do with your data, let me help you lessen their intrusive grasp on your life! Firstly, make sure that your browser is sending a „do not track“ request to websites, this will take many tracking cookies off of future websites.
Do Not Track is an extremely helpful website that provides information and links on how to enable the „do not track“ request sending; however, for most modern web browsers, the tick box is easily found in your setting or preferences menu.
A quicker way to opt-out of tracking is by visiting Network Advertising and viewing what networks currently are tracking your browser/information, simply select all and opt-out.
Note: You will not stop seeing advertisements; however, they will not be targeted toward you anymore.
But sending „do not track“ requests only do a portion of the job. To further anonymity and privacy, I suggest getting an Anti Spyware program. Note: Anti Spyware is not an anti-virus! They are designed only to prevent tracking cookies, malicious cookies and blocking access to blacklisted websites. Use an anti-spyware program in coordination with an anti-virus.
My recommended software of choice is SpyBot Search & Destroy. It offers many features and assists in both the privacy and security of your browser and personal information. Simply follow the in-program tutorials to begin protecting your online cookies, and preventing intrusive and malicious ones access to your machine.
Now simply removing cookies and using spyware will not lead to a 100 percent removal of your information and profile by any means; however, it’s a start to preventing future intrusion. The information companies already have on you will still be bought and sold. I recommend you use the following tips to get a leg-up on your personal privacy.
- Never release personal information unless necessary, and when it is necessary, shorten your last name to simply an initial.
- Use an Abine extension such as “ MaskMe “ and „DoNotTrackMe“ to create temporary masked emails, so that you do not need to disclose your own personal email, and to help remove and regulate cookies.
- Don’t visit suspicious websites from unrecognized emails, and never provide personal information to unrecognized emailers.
- Lastly, avoid any and all suspicious files, don’t open or download anything without scanning it! Even if it’s from a reputable software company.
Now hopefully you’ll feel safer about your Internet presence, and may your data profiles not grow a byte of data larger.