This is the second post on how to protect yourself, following the one about how to “Protect yourself and all your devices against ads for FREE“.
Tracking via cookies
The idea behind tracking is actually a good one. Imagine that you search on Amazon for “hard drive 500 gb”. This website drops a cookie in your browser which gets saved locally. If you are logged on in your Amazon account, this is usually not needed because your entire activity is logged, but if you’re not, this is happening in order to be able to show you relevant products next time when you visit the website.
Nothing wrong here, it is actually helping you across visits.
But, this technology can also be misused. Imagine that a website, plugin, toolbar or anything else you have in your browser writes a cookie that many affiliate websites can read. So, to use the other example, one website writes the cookie about the product you were searching (hdd) and then all other affiliate websites can read it. Next time you visit any of them, you will automatically see ads about the products you searched on any other website. Even if this might seem like a innocent action, it is actually an attack on your privacy. You never gave your consent to be tracked across multiple domains.
Here is how such cookies look like in Chrome (Settings -> Show advanced settings -> Privacy: Content Settings -> All cookies and site data):
And this is how the cookies of Google.com look like:
and those of microsoft.com
How can you prevent tracking via cookies?
The settings are different for each browser, and sometimes it is quite hard to block something with the settings of the browser.
Here is how the settings for Chrome, Firefox and IE look like:
Be sure to select “Enable phishing and malware protection” and “Send a ‘do not track’ request with your browsing traffic”.
There are additional settings when you visit chrome://settings/content but it is safe to let them as the defaults are.
Be sure to set the level to “Medium-High”.
Be sure to set the level to “High”.
Use Add-ons for additional control
The settings of the browsers are pretty good, but the browsers are designed to work with as many websites as possible, so they are quite permissive in their default settings. The best way is to install extensions that control cookies and tracking. One of the best extensions I know is “Do Not Track Me” from Abine.
The good part is that Abine has collected information about websites and has set some defaults that will make your browsing experience better.
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