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Blocking Trackers

Article for: Windows users
Difficulty: Moderate
Importance: save money, gain privacy

The issue

As we move around the Internet, various advertising companies monitor us and collect information regarding where we go and what we do. These trackers are distinct from advertisements, though many advertisements include trackers. They may display an ad or display nothing. Mostly, they just track, record, and send information home to sell at a later time. They not only provide targeted ads to you, they collect information about your browsing habits, what you do, what you search for and much more. They build a profile which they sell.
In addition, many retailers use this information to customize your price. If they think you are rich or are returning for a second or third time, they sometimes increase the price, just for you.

There are over 1,700 tracking companies. Three times in the last few years, a company lost my personal information to the Internet. Hackers grabbed my data from them and released it. I had never done business with two of the companies and didn't even know they existed. Despite that, they created a "dossier" on me, which they then lost to hackers. The third company was Equifax, which I knew about, but never did business with.

Google and Microsoft track us as they try to funnel our web browsing through their search engines. Using either Google or Bing for searches is opening yourself to tracking and specialized prices. That’s right. Besides targeted advertisements, they also sometimes raise prices if they think they can get more money from you according to your previous searches or browsing.

Current solutions

Trackers are difficult to stop. An anti-tracking company has to invest in tracking the trackers. They must see how websites work and where they send information. They must follow those and see what they do with the information. Because some sites will not work without tracking, they must either adapt or allow us to let the site track us because we need to use it.

Blocking third-party cookies is not good enough. Fourth and fifth parties set 72% of the trackers. Those third-party cookies allow fourth parties in, who allow fifth parties in.

Requirements for a solution

  1. Block companies that create dossiers on us for sale.
  2. Have control right on the main browser screen, so we can quickly disable blocking for that site.
  3. Adapt to particular sites. Allow us to allow tracking on our Doctor's site, or our bank quickly and easily, while still preventing tracking elsewhere.
  4. Normally, an Ad blocker should be supplied, otherwise, we need two solutions, one for ads and one for trackers.
  5. Allow us to use a search engine that does not track you.

Grading Windows browsers

A: Brave, Vivaldi, Opera.
Browsers get an A if they:
  • Have easy tracker protection and control
  • Offer simple ad-blocking
  • Make it easy to use a non-tracking search engine.

You need not install add-ons for privacy with these browsers. For reasons I'm not going into in this article, I do not recommend Opera.

B: Firefox, Safari
Browsers get a B if they
  • Offer easy tracker protection and control
  • Make it easy to use a non-tracking search engine

You only need an ad-blocker with these browsers. Ublock Origin, Ghostery, and Ad-block Plus are excellent. Ad-block Plus is my preferred one.

D: Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome
Browsers get a D if they fail at simple tracking and ad-blocking, but at least let you easily switch to a non-tracking search engine. If you must use one of these, switch your search engine to DuckDuckGo and add DuckDuckGo's privacy essentials or EFF's Privacy Badger and a good ad-blocker like Ad-block Plus.

Date: November 2020

Creative Commons License
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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