Let’s start off with this. Two months ago I did a YouTube video talking about Facebook and how it’s tracking us through various means. To say I was shocked isn’t quite hard enough. Here’s the video:
Frankly, I thought that was enough to deal with. I use Firefox on my computer, and I’m blocking Facebook directly. I’ve stopped clicking on products being promoted on Instagram, so I made an assumption that those types of things wouldn’t occur again.
A few days ago I was talking to someone I’ve known a long time online, back when Usenet was still a thing. We got to the topic of shoes, and I mentioned that I’d always worn Hush Puppies from the age of 7 until around 2014, when I couldn’t find them any longer.
It got me wondering if I could find them online. I went to our “friend” Google to find out, and I saw a link to the Hush Puppies page; yay me! I looked around and found a pair that might do the trick (looks like a dress shoe, but I have hopes it’ll feel like they used to all those years ago). Still, I wanted to take some time to think about it before I purchased them, since they’re $135 plus tax, and ordering shoes online is always crap shoot at best.
Less than an hour later I got an email from Paypal, who I use for business services, and it seems they were giving me a $15 discount… on Hush Puppies! What the hey?!?!?
Now I was wondering about the trackers on Firefox. Why hadn’t they blocked the Hush Puppies site from sending information elsewhere… or from gathering information from me in the first place? I mean, I already automatically block cookies from every site I visit; you’d think that would be enough.
Before I tell you the add-on I loaded onto Firefox, I want to mention this part first. I came across an article titled 6 Ways to Check Who Is Tracking You Online, and it was illuminating. It gives 6 websites you can go to so you can see how protected you presently are. The first one goes to a site called Panopticlick.
It looked pretty good, so that’s where I went. I ran the test, and this is what it came back showing:
That looks pretty good, doesn’t it? That’s because the same day I got that email from Paypal I went through Firefox add-ons and found one called Privacy Blocker. What’s funny is that this site recommended I add that add-on for better protection… winning! 😀
Actually… it’s not actually good. It’s basically saying that there are still a lot of gaps in protecting myself from being tracked. Right now I’m blocking ads and I’m blocking invisible trackers, so that part’s pretty good. But I’m not blocking more things… and I know why.
Here’s the 4 things I found being recommended that makes the most sense (some other things were recommended, but they’re idiotic and don’t work):
1. Try to use a “non-rare” browser. The most obvious way to try to prevent browser fingerprinting is to pick a “standard”, “common” browser.
Even though most people in most of the world are using standard browsers, there’s literally a couple hundred browsers out there that someone has to be using, that doesn’t offer the protection some people think they do.
2. Use Tor or something similar
The Brave browser has Tor, whose purpose is to block where you are by answering some questions that could be picking things out of images, doing numbers like Captcha or something else. The problem with that is you can’t use it on sites like YouTube without a lot of problems and interruptions.
3. Disable Flash.
This is for anyone using an older computer that you haven’t updated in the last 7 or 8 years. Flash is dead; move on…
4. Revisit extensions and plugins.
Although this isn’t prevalent unless you’re kind of a geek like me, if you have any add-ons you’re using on your browser it doesn’t hurt to see if they have lapses in protection. A couple of years ago I found that I had 3 add-ons that did that very thing.
5. Use a VPN.
I considered going this route, but I decided against it. Even though it was only a couple of months ago, I can’t remember right now why I didn’t like the sound of it, even though it’ll probably work. Still, do a bit of research and see what you think about it.