Staying Hidden: 3 Quick Ways to Increase Online Privacy

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Google Government Requests

Privacy. That’s the buzzword that’s been popping up all over the Internet after The Guardian acquired documents detailing tracking and surveillance operations performed by the National Security Agency. It’s not just the government that’s been keeping eyes on your browsing history though: popular online services and a majority of the websites you visit are watching where you’re going, too. Here we’ve set up 3 quick ways to help conceal your Internet presence, making it harder for third parties to make a detailed profile of you as you browse the web.

Duck Duck Go

1) Use a More Private Search Engine

As a company, Google could not have grown to be as large as it is today without its advertising platforms. By logging and tracking search requests made by users, Google is able to deliver accurately targeted advertising that other businesses are willing to pay high prices for. Simply put, a lot of eyes are keeping tabs of exactly what you’re typing into the search box, and it’s not just Google that’s exposing your searches – Yahoo! and Bing are doing the same thing.

The ability to search the web is a must-have as a way of finding information, so it’s difficult to completely stop using search engines. Instead, you can use a search engine that doesn’t log your visited websites and/or store your queries, such as DuckDuckGo or Startpage. The team over at DuckDuckGo have written up a more detailed explanation as to how Google tracks its users. While search results will be overall less useful than those found on Google, we think the difference is worth the privacy gain.

Adblock Plus

2) Use Adblock

There’s more online advertisers than Google out there, and because they can’t leverage search engine statistics, the best they can do is embed tracking within advertisements themselves. Adblock (Firefox, Chrome) not only makes annoying advertisements get out of the way when you browse the web, it also does a good job preventing them from tracking you. For example, if you happen to (accidentally) click an advert that features electronic cigarettes, you’ll see a lot more of those kinds of ads later while you browse.

The downside to using any form of adblock is that it disrupts the lifeline of nearly every single website on the internet, including this one. Advertisements are one of the few sources of income available to websites that don’t sell goods or services, and blocking ads is almost the same as not visiting. We highly encourage you to disable ads on sites that you’re familiar with and would like to continue supporting.

Javascript Blocker

3) Disable Javascript

The information industry is booming, with social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter gaining huge caches of personal data as more and more users sign up. Companies like Quantcast are dedicated to figuring out who’s been visiting what websites, and they do this by placing hidden bits of Javascript within pages. Separate from advertisements, these lines of Javascript can still execute with adblock enabled. The most popular Javascript blocker is NoScript for Firefox, though there are good alternatives available for Chrome and Opera.

Not all Javascript is bad however, and with NoScript installed some websites may be broken as a result. You’ll need to manually enable individual script sources within your Javascript blocker to allow some pages to fully function.

Even with all the encryption in the world, the best way to stay secure on the Internet is common sense. Try to spread personal information around as little as possible, and avoid malicious or sketchy websites – your computer will thank you.

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Posted in: Guides, Software

This article has 1 comment

  1. leo 06/16/2013, 11:43 pm:

    great tips!, thanks.

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