Top 5 Ways To Avoid Being Tracked Online


Avoid Being Tracked Online With These Tools

Almost everyone over the age of 18 on the internet knows that they are being tracked by websites. We see ads that show products we visited only moments ago. Looking at Google Ad Preferences paints a remarkably accurate self-portrait. Though all of these things might not necessarily seem that bad—getting a Groupon before anyone else can find out about it doesn’t sound too terrible—these practices can also put you at risk for hackers and for third party companies to mine and sell your information. There are tons of guides out there that’ll tell you the best practices for guarding your information both on and off the web, but how many of them are completely accurate? There’s no way of telling without trying them out for yourself. Luckily, you have us. Here are the top five suggested ways to avoid being tracked online, and information on just how effective they are (or aren't).

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1. Clearing Your Cookies And Cache

One of the most common ways people suggest for protecting your privacy on the internet is clearing your cookies and cache. This should be your first step, not only to keeping the internet free of your fingerprints, but also to keep your web browsers running quickly and smoothly. However, while your internet will run faster, advertisements might not be as directed towards you. This might mean missing out on coupons, sales, and other deals offered up by sites. To clean out your cookies and cache, click the “history” button at the top of your web browser (control + H or Command + H also usually works). From there, go to “clear recent history” and select “cookies” and “cache.” Make sure the time range is “everything” before doing so. If you’ve never cleared your cookies or cache before, this might take a while. Otherwise, it should only take a few minutes. After that, you’re good to go.

2. Buying Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, offer the security of anonymity, but come at a price. In recent years, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies soared in value, creating high net gains for those who bought early on. But, just like in the stock market crash that caused the great depression, the value came crashing down almost as fast as it went up, leaving others thousands of dollars in the hole. But that’s not the only problem with cryptocurrencies. Another issue is that these currencies, like anything on the internet, are hackable. That means that your money can be stolen without a trace, and because the currency isn’t directly linked to you, getting your money back is nearly impossible. Therefore, cryptocurrencies should be used with caution. It isn’t wise to invest all your money in anything. Cryptocurrencies are no exception. To buy a cryptocurrency, simply search “buy” plus the currency you want to invest in on Google (example: buy bitcoin). Instructions should appear in the first few links.

3. Using A VPN

Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a secure way of surfing the internet because it encrypts all of your information and does not allow cookies, so you don’t have to worry about clearing them. However, be cautious when choosing a VPN. Sometimes, you’ll run into a VPN that logs all of your activities on its own server, which defeats the purpose of having a VPN at all. Also, VPNs come with a price—literally. Most VPNs charge monthly for their encryption services. The more secure the network, the more you’ll probably have to pay. VPNs are only a solution, then, for those who are willing to pay the charges. To gain access to a VPN, you first need to find a reliable one. Private Internet Access (PIA) and TorGuard are both reliable. Once you have bought a VPN plan, you can gain access by visiting their website.

4. Downloading A Reliable Ad Blocker

Many pop-up ads and ads that are loaded onto a page are more than just simply annoying; they can also track where you’ve been on the web and keep track of your interests and website history. To lessen the amount of cookies your browser acquires, download a reliable ad blocker. Adblock and Adblock Plus are two of the most used and reliable ad blocking services available. This application not only blocks pop-up ads; it also blocks ads around the content of a website. Best of all, it is open source, so developers who want to improve upon the code can do so. However, relying solely on an ad blocker to secure your web browsing is a mistake. Though ad blockers can sometimes block cookies, not all of the cookies are blocked, meaning your browser can still be tracked. Not all ad blockers are created equal either. Some ad blockers might not be fast or reliable. Others might block too much, which prevents you from seeing the content you came to the website to see. So, ad blockers should be well-researched and backed by multiple other track deleting methods.

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5. Turning off Referers

Ok, so you’ve (somewhat) blocked websites from tracking you. There is still one more thing that is recommended for erasing yourself from the web: turning off referers. Referers are what tells a website how you got on a webpage. A common referer you probably have seen is “?ref=email” in a URL. Though this information is not that harmful—it simply tells a website where you came from—it is still a mode of tracking, which you might not want. Turning off refers is a little more difficult. To do so, open a new tab in your browser and type in “about:config”. A warning will pop up, but click “I’ll be careful” or an equivalent. Editing this section incorrectly might change your browser for the worse, so do be careful. In the search bar, type “referer” and the phrase “network.http.sendRefererHeader” should pop up. Double click on it and change the value to “0”. Then, close the tab so you don’t make any other changes. If you have Google Chrome installed, you can also install Refer Control, which allows you to control each referer individually. Protecting yourself from website tracking completely is nearly impossible. There will always be an inherent risk with going on the web. Your best option to limit tracking is simply to use the internet less frequently. In an age where almost everything is online, though, that might be somewhat difficult.
Date of original publication:
Updated on: November 10, 2015

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