Keep snooping eyes out of your browser history
Visiting a website these days is no longer enough. When you leave the website, they then want to know where you are going next. They want to leave tracking cookies on your browser.
Thanks to analytics tools like Google Analytics, they even want to register everything from your geographical location right down to what color of underwear you were wearing at the time of your visit.
Thank God there are now browser tools that can stop this outright or at the very least seriously hinder their efforts.
I briefly mentioned Privacy Badger in my article about the best Chrome extensions you should be using . But Privacy Badger is also available for Opera, Firefox, and even Firefox on Android phones.
Made by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Privacy Badger comes pre-installed with many built-in privacy protections. Known trackers and scripts are automatically blocked but you are free to unblock any of them if the website stops working or if you think any of them are too restrictive.
I generally don’t recommend doing this unless it is absolutely necessary. But sometimes it is necessary as, for example, it interferes with certain Gmail functions.
There are three privacy levels – red, yellow, and green. Green is perfectly safe, red is very bad and yellow is generally OK.
I’ve gone back and forth with Ghostery in the past. It’s an excellent tool but in the grand scheme of things, I found Privacy Badger to be simpler and less hassle to use. But Ghostery still comes a solid second when you are considering how to beef up your browser security.
As well as the Ghostery browser extension, they also have a Ghostery mobile browser for Android and iOS. They also have a desktop browser called Clickz. You can get the links to all of them on the Ghostery main page.
But I find it ironic that the links to these privacy browsers have UTM analytics tracking codes attached to them. I’ll be discussing UTM tracking later in the article.
Anyway, back to the browser extension which is available for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, Edge, and Internet Explorer 5.4.0. Once installed, you will be guided through what you want to block.
If you “choose from list”, you will be given a HUGE list to pick and choose from. Unless you really have nothing better to do, I would suggest choosing the default option or blocking everything. You can always tweak as you go along.
This is another Electronic Frontier Foundation invention, in collaboration with the Tor Browser developer team. Available for Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Firefox for Android phones, the name of it makes it self-explanatory.
It is a very basic tool which ensures that if there is a “https” version of a page, then you are automatically redirected to it. These pages are secure pages with a little padlock next to the URL bar and stops anyone from intercepting your data as it travels from your computer to another.
In some ways, HTTPS Everywhere is now slightly redundant as all of the big players such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon have switched to https by default. And ordinary sites like mine are being penalized if we don’t switch on https by default. Add to which, sites like Chrome now routinely block non-https sites as “unsafe”.
URL Tracking Stripper & Redirect Skipper (Chrome Only)
OK, back to those UTM codes. On the Ghostery main page, if you click the link to download the browser, the link will look like this :
See all that “UTM” crap at the end of the link? That is a Google Analytics tracking code which tells the owner of the website where their traffic is coming from.
Using that tracking code, everything about you now gets registered in their Analytics account. Where in the world you are, the time you visited, how long you visited for, what other pages you looked at…..
This extremely useful Chrome extension will automatically strip out UTM codes so when you click on one of these links, that URL above will come out as :
BlockBear (iOS Only)
My favourite virtual private network, without a doubt, is Tunnelbear. It’s easy to use with virtually no complicated configuration, and has never let me down. But they also have other smaller products and one of them is an iOS app called BlockBear (the other is a password manager called RememBear).
As you can see from the screenshot above, you simply have to toggle it on at the top, and then decide which features you want to toggle on underneath. You can block ads, block social sharing buttons, block tracking, and if you have any favorite websites, you can whitelist them.
BlockBear claims to load websites “three to five times faster” but I can’t independently verify that.