Because only you should be keeping tabs on your tabs.
Most of us don’t want to be tracked by every advertiser and website we visit. Luckily there are tools to make your browsing stealthier.
Just like pizza, ads are great when they come in moderation – but too much of anything can be harmful. We all know the feeling of being watched at all times, and there’s nothing better than breaking free and knowing that whatever you do, you’re the only one who’s keeping tabs on your… tabs.
So if you’re looking to go incognito without actually browsing in incognito mode, here are four tools to help you out.
4 privacy tools for better browsing
You don’t have to install all of them, but having some of these plugins and extensions will improve your browsing experience tenfold.
#1: uBlock Origin
We can’t talk about blocking ads without mentioning an ad blocker, now can we? uBlock Origin has been my go-to blocker for more than a year now, and most times I forget it’s even there, silently running in the background.
The browser extension can be found here and it’s extremely lightweight; unlike other blockers I’ve used in the past, this one doesn’t eat up your resources like it’s going on an eating binge.
It has a huge list of filters, which means it automatically knows what’s an ad and what isn’t, and it’ll block most ads on a page even if you haven’t visited the site before.
If you do spot an ad, all you need to do is point uBlock at its general direction and it’ll be the last time you see that ad. Top notch stuff right there.
#2: About Ads
This one’s good. Basically, every site you’re visiting stores information about you in cookies. Not the ones that the blue Sesame Street dude loves so much, but the ones you can clear in your browser.
And mostly those cookies contain harmless information, like the fact that you’re logged in (not necessarily the username/password combo, but just that piece of information, saving you from logging in each time you visit a page on a website).
Some cookies are home to information that helps advertisers target you for ads. These are the less fun ones, and they’re definitely the ones you would want to keep an eye on.
AboutAds.info is an alliance of many advertising companies, consisting of many advertising associations. It’s all done by them with no law or regulation forcing the advertisers to participate. And what the site does is allow you to see which sites use those advertisers to track your info.
And here comes the best part: after analyzing the cookie content of your browser, it will allow you to opt out from a company accessing your info. I did a test on my computer and my phone – yes, they can track your phone; yes, you can opt out there as well – and I found that my computer had 126 companies watching me. I re-did the same test on my phone, and this was the result:
At a first glance, I thought it was an amazing coincidence that I had the exact number of companies tracking me on both my phone and my computer – until I realized I’m using Chrome for both, and cookies are shared between them.
So you now have the opportunity to opt out of all of these companies tracking you, or just some by choosing them one by one.
The problem with AboutAds is that all the companies that take part in it do so voluntarily. So if you have a shady advertiser tracking you, they’re probably going to be shady enough not to let you go.
Disconnect.me is a nuclear option that shows you who’s watching on any site that you visit, then stops them from tracking you. You can Disconnect on any platform you’re using – Android, iOS, Mac or PC. The Chrome extension is another one that’ll sit there quietly in your browser’s task bar and do its job like one of the Queen’s guards.
One area you’re going to see improvement when using Disconnect.me is load speed. They claim that pages will load 27% faster, due to nobody coming in the way of what you’re loading.
#4: Facebook Disconnect
When it comes to tracking, Facebook is the granddaddy of them all. Every single page that has a Like button – and what freakin’ page doesn’t nowadays – is there to ask you to like the Facebook page… and to spy on you a little.
There are more than a million sites, and God knows how many pages, that use the Like button, and Facebook is notified each time you visit any of those pages.
What Facebook Disconnect does is block the traffic that goes back to Facebook letting them know what you’re up to. Everything else is intact, and you can use social media without any restriction.
What’s next: More control over your browsing
They say that if a service is free, then you’re the product that’s being sold. For now, that’s mostly true – most of the money made on the internet is made from advertising, so the people behind it want to know what you’re up to and they’re willing to track you every step of the way.
But as you can see above, there is an emerging market that allows you to take control over who gets to see your browsing habits and who doesn’t.
In the future you’ll be able to choose when you want to be tracked, and when you don’t. That way, you can benefit from all the advantages of the web, without any of the drawbacks.
Let us know if you use these tools – or others that we haven’t found yet! Has there been a noticeable difference since you started using them?
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