How Secure Are You From Being Tracked Via Your Browser?

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:


https://youtu.be/Pxdy0I-vdD8

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.

But it wasn’t; turns out that it takes a bit more to block even more sites from tracking you than using a cookie blocker, a javascript blocker, and a Facebook blocker.

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.

6. Disable JavaScript.

Bam! Up until last year, I immediately blocked all javascript for any website I went to until I decided whether I felt it was important enough to turn it on (sometimes you can’t see the content, sometimes you can’t leave comments on certain blogs and such). It turned out that the add-on I was using to do that was messing up Firefox, and even they recommended not using it anymore. I added a different javascript blocker, but I’ve been hesitant to turn it on for everyone and selectively turning it on like I previously did.

But that might be the way to go in general if I’m all about blocking as much as possible. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t have helped me on the Hush Puppies site because the only way you can see an image of the shoes is by leaving javascript on; heck! Once again, it comes down to what should be a simple question, but isn’t; privacy or not.

In any case, at least I know what I can do… and if you’ve read this now you also do. What do you think; are you willing to let trackers share your information so you can see everything you want to, or are you willing to shut down javascript and ignore sites that block content because of it?
 

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10 thoughts on “How Secure Are You From Being Tracked Via Your Browser?”

  1. Hi Mitch, I’ve had that same exact thing happen about a week ago – the email from Paypal. I wasn’t surprised since I use Chrome for a lot of things but I also use Brave just as much.
    Another thing: if you have Facebook on your phone it can listen to everything. One time we were traveling and I mentioned Burger King and Burger King ads came right up on FB. I no longer have it on my phone. I only use it for business now.
    I haven’t noticed it with Twitter but will have my antennas up.
    I’m not sure yet, but VPN sounds interesting to me Mitch! More research for that one. Thanks for sharing your experience about this.
    Lisa Sicard recently posted..Facebook Page Posts – Who is Seeing Your Posts Now?My Profile

    1. Lisa, I’ve never activated Facebook on any of my smartphones or tablets, even though early on they kept encouraging me to do so. I’m connected to the organization because of Instagram, but I was on Instagram way before Facebook bought them; sigh… I don’t think Twitter’s tracking anyone but who knows. I think there’s enough outside platforms that access Twitter that would make it more difficult to do, but I guess one never knows. In any case, that what happened to me also happened to you reinforces the truth that it’s getting to all of us in one way or another; the weasels! lol

  2. Hi Mitch,
    I am not important enough to follow by anyone I guess and even if I am followed, there is nothing incriminating about me that I should worry about.

    I am changing my email address to my blog address to see if this time, the comments get published.
    Rummuser recently posted..Six Degrees Of Separation.My Profile

    1. Ramana, I’m going to add your information to the allow list and we’ll see what happens at that point; I pulled this one out of the spam filter, but at least it showed up. As for importance, it’s possible that the marketers in your country aren’t doing the same things they’re doing here… but I doubt that since in general I don’t trust governments when it comes to allowing others to make money.

  3. I sold my soul to the web a long time ago. Track away, I say!

    LOL. No I don’t.

    Actually, I don’t take extraordinary measures, but I do use some browser settings and extensions, such as uBlock Origin and Malwarebytes. I wonder if they’re the reason my browser seems sluggish.

    Cheers,

    Mitch
    Mitchell Allen recently posted..Shot on iPhoneMy Profile

    1. I found this:

      “You may lose some speed when running Malwarebytes Privacy because it takes time to encrypt your data. This article shows you how to test your internet connection speed with Malwarebytes Privacy toggled on and off. You can compare connection speeds and change your server location to try and get a faster connection.” You can read the entire article here: https://support.malwarebytes.com/hc/en-us/articles/360046339373-Internet-speed-is-slow-when-Malwarebytes-Privacy-is-on

      The same seems to be the case for UBlock:

      “uBlock does marginally slow down webpage render because it has to inject CSS rules (cosmetic filters) to improve blocking quality. If you don’t want this feature, you can disable cosmetic filtering entirely within uBlock’s settings.”

      It’s within this page, which isn’t quite an article: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23617434

      We do what we need to do I assume; at least I’m good with it for now.

  4. Hello Mitch,

    Most of time we are getting tracked because of the plugins or extensions we use in our blog, in such a way that leads to getting affected by malware as well that too via good trusted extensions sometimes. So how to take it forward.

    Also, I am visiting your blog 4th time for this information. But last couple of times my comments / views didn’t get publish on it, not sure why. Hope this time you wont loose your potential follower.
    Aadiv recently posted..10 Best AI Content Writing Tools & Software of 2022 –  Make Writing to EasierMy Profile

    1. Greetings Aadiv. Most of the time we’re not being tracked by our blogs, but by the websites we visit via our browsers; at least that’s how it’s always worked previously. There are some plugins that are somewhat dangerous, but WordPress has worked hard to call those plugins out and keep them from bogging down people’s blogging content.

      As for your other comments… I ended up deleting them because one of your comments had nothing to do with what the article was about, which made me wonder if the other comments were based on spam. Also, unfortunately you keep violating one of my commenting rules (the comment policy is at the top) of not adding a direct web link into the area asking for your website, since by adding your website CommentLuv gives you options for which pages you want to connect to. I removed the link extension on this comment, but you’ll notice you still got the CommentLuv link back to your site. Hopefully we’ll be good from this point on.

      Also, I’m assuming you know that any comments from gmail accounts automatically go to the trash bin; I wrote about that earlier in the year.

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