When it comes to privacy, the internet is probably the last thing you think of. Privacy on the internet has mostly disappeared because we've opted-in to sharing our personal details on social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and others.
However, lack of privacy on the internet is not only due to our opt-in behaviors on social networks. Global advertising networks also invade our privacy. Bits of information sent to and from your browser can be used to track your browsing activity over time.
What bits of information?
The most common form of identifying information is a cookie. Cookies are just small files that store a unique identification token. Practically every website you visit will set at least one cookie in your browser. A website that sets a cookie can then use it to keep you logged in, store items in a shopping cart, or even track your use of that particular website.
If cookies are set by an advertising network, however, they can be used to track your activities all over the internet. An advertising network that is used by a lot of different websites can set a cookie once and use it to track you for a long time.
Other ways to track you include:
- Information from your web browser
- The website that referred you to this page (or referer)
- User-Agent String
- Fonts installed on your system
- Screen Resolution
- Browser Plugins
- Local Shared Objects (LSOs) or so-called "Super Cookies"
- IP Address
- Tracking images
See how unique your browser fingerprint is using the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Panopticlick tool.
How do you protect your privacy?
To protect your privacy while browsing the web make sure you do the following:
Clear your web history often
Cookies, tracking images, and other cached entries can be used to track your internet activity across browsing sessions. Check your browser's documentation for help with clearing your web history or web cache.
Use privacy protecting browser extensions
We suggest using the following privacy protecting browser extensions:
- HTTPS Everywhere automatically selects the encrypted version of every website you use, if available. One of the benefits of using an encrypted connection (TLS) is that it makes is much harder for advertising networks to share information (including your browsing history) between websites
- BetterPrivacy is a Firefox extension that helps you manage Local Shared Objects (or LSOs,) protecting you against so-called "Super-Cookies."
There are other privacy protecting browser addons or extensions that help you protect your privacy but are more complicated to use. We will cover them in another article.
Do not log into your Google or Facebook account
If you think that using private browsing mode in Firefox or Incognito mode in Google Chrome is going to protect your privacy, think again!
As soon as you login to your Google or Facebook account, even if you're using private browsing (or Incognito) mode, Google or Facebook will be able to incorporate your previously anonymous browsing cookie into your advertising profile. For more information see this article titled Google and Facebook's cookied-based user tracking are not anonymous
Use a Web Proxy
Even if you follow all the suggestions we wrote about earlier in this article, you still might not be fully protected you against tracking. That's because, most of the time, your IP address is directly linked to your identity. Not only is your IP address routinely used to serve up geographically targeted advertising, it can also be traced back to your home address through your ISP's subscriber information database.
The easiest way to protect yourself against being targeted geographically via your IP address is to use a web proxy. Here at slowfruit.net, we also have a web proxy privacy list to help you choose a web proxy provider that is right for you.
Best of all, it's free! So, protect your privacy with slowfruit.net, today!