Does it seem like your every online move is tracked? Websites, browsers, social media and online tools track your activity to provide you with better ads, encourage newsletter signups, provide supposedly better search results and gather demographic data. You don’t always have to participate. While most of us can’t be completely anonymous, it’s possible to avoid being tracked online to an extent.
1. Change Your Browser And Search Engine
Most major browsers, such as Chrome, Internet Explorer and Firefox, all have incognito or private browsing modes. Using these browsers eliminates some tracking and automatically deletes any browsing history when you close the window.
You could also use a more privacy-centric browser such as Aviator or Tor. These browsers are designed to put online privacy front and center without you having to tweak settings or use a special mode to avoid tracking.
Even if you’re using your normal browser, switching to a different search engine helps immensely. For instance, every time you perform a search on Google, your results are personalized based on previous searches and what you’ve clicked. Search engines such as DuckDuckGo and StartPage prevent tracking while still gathering results from sources such as Google.
2. Watch What You Share, Like, Play…
Many of us love social media and can’t imagine not recommending the latest action movie we just watched or playing Candy Crush with our friends. The more you do on social media, the more data you’re providing social networks with. This is data they gather, store and use to provide you with targeted ads and customize your news feed.
If you stay logged in to social media or link your account with third party websites, you’re providing much of that data to those third party sites. Facebook has changed their policy and allows you to choose what you share with other sites.
If you don’t want to limit your online sharing too much, opt for private profiles and ensure you understand exactly what you’re sharing with third parties before linking your account. Signing in with your Facebook account on numerous sites might seem great until you realize they’re gathering all your posts, data about your friends and other details.
3. Use Browser Add-ons
Want to see who’s tracking you and limit the tracking? Try installing a browser add-on. The most popular and effective are Ghostery, PrivacyFix and Blur. These are available for most major browsers. They block trackers and prevent unwanted data collection. You get to see who’s tracking you and you can even allow some sites to collect data if you wish.
Blur takes things a step further by masking data commonly asked for such as email addresses, credit card numbers and other personal information. The plugin gives you a masked version of your information to reduce tracking and spam.
4. Read All TOS, Privacy Policies and User Agreements
Reading all the fine print when signing up for a new account is cumbersome. It’s why sites love hiding details, such as sharing your personal information and tracking site usage, in these documents. Take the time to read over these documents and any updated policies. If you’re uncomfortable with the terms, don’t sign up. It might seem extreme, but some sites don’t respect your privacy and signing up with them just leads to increased tracking not just on their site, but any sites they’re partnered with.
5. Avoid Suspicious Sites, Emails And Downloads
Normal online tracking is annoying enough. Adding malware to the mix is even worse. Avoiding suspicious sites, reading emails from senders you don’t recognize or downloading from sites you don’t trust could result in malware on your computer. Not only are your online habits tracked, but any and all computer usage.
Think of this as an extreme form of online tracking. Always use anti-virus and anti-malware software to prevent infections while online.
Using a combination of these steps will help you reduce how much you’re tracked online. Choose how much or how little you want to be tracked. With the right precautions, you can browser nearly anonymously.