Basic Measures for Preventing Online Tracking
Browsing in Privacy Mode and Using Plugins Offer Basic Anti-Tracking Protections
Using Your Web Browser's Incognito / Private Browsing / InPrivate Mode
The easiest, quickest and most basic action you can take is to use your Internet web browser app in its private mode. This provides only a bare minimum of protection from online tracking, but for some people this may be enough.
Browsing in private mode somewhat safeguards you from the tracking elements used by websites you visit, such as social media icons, beacons and cookies.
Each of the major web browser apps has a feature enabling you to browse in private mode. Sometimes this feature is euphemistically referred to as “porn mode” but it has many uses other than this label would suggest. As a general rule, you can enter private browsing mode whenever you want to temporarily disable your browser’s cookies, its record-keeping features (visited website and search histories) and its plugins (add-ons and extensions).
Chrome refers to its private browsing mode as incognito, Firefox as private browsing and Internet Explorer as InPrivate Browsing. Each browser’s privacy mode is a little different though largely the same.
In Chrome, you can start a private browsing session by accessing its main menu button (the three horizontal lines, ≡) and selecting New incognito window. You can also do this with the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+N. To open a link in private browsing mode, right-click on the link and select Open link in incognito window.
Top Tip – Some websites only let you access a limited amount of material in a given time, blocking further access until you pay a subscription or sign-up. For example, many news sites will limit the number of free articles per month you can read after which they will block your access until you pay a monthly subscription fee. This blocking is usually enabled by cookies. Sometimes you can side-step this blocking by accessing the materials while browsing in private mode. In your browser, simply right-click on the link to the article you want to read and select the private browsing feature for your particular web browser.
As I mentioned at the outset, the protection private browsing mode offers against online tracking and profiling is very basic. That’s because, <though browsing in private mode is helpful and easy, your online behavior may still be detected and tracked in all kinds of ways including with flash cookies and the device fingerprinting I talked about earlier. However, don’t worry as I will show you everything you need to know about overcoming these risks too.
Another potential downside of browsing in private mode is that it generally disables most if not all of your web browser’s plugins, add-ons and extensions because these items can also be a potential source of tracking risk. However, this disabling also means a number of plugins that can help prevent tracking in the first place – including those I recommend below – won’t work. These include using specialized plugins for your web browser that enhance your privacy by not only blocking cookies, but other kinds of tracking elements too.
Best Web Browser Anti-Tracking Plugins (Add-ons and Extensions)
Whatever web browser app(s) you use, consider installing the following plugins to counter online tracking. Best of all, these plugins are absolutely free.
- Disconnect https://disconnect.me/disconnect
- Ghostery https://www.ghostery.com/ (but ideally skip the “GhostRank” opt-in during setup)
- AdBlockPlus https://adblockplus.org/
- Privacy Badger https://www.eff.org/privacybadger
- HTTPS Everywhere https://www.eff.org/https-everywhere
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Although browsing in private mode and using privacy-enhancing plugins with your web browser represent a good start, they are only the most basic and bare bones way to protect you from online tracking and profiling.
You can also go a step further and use techniques to make your web browsing anonymous. You can achieve this using tools called web proxies, The Onion Router (Tor for short) and virtual private networks (VPNs for short). They can make your entire Internet connection seem to originate from somewhere else thereby keeping hidden your true presence.
- All Your Activities are Being Tracked and Profiled
- Anonymous Web Browsing Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network)
- How to Choose the Best VPN for You
- Online Privacy Checks You Should Do Right Now