Anti-Tracking Software

 

I was reading an article in a consumer magazine about how to protect your privacy when using Facebook and the author had added a sidebar about an anti-tracking product (Privacy Badger) that he recommended. From there I found the Privacy Badger reviews online and decided to give it a go. Privacy Badger is a free browser extension for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and Firefox for Android created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

When asked to give a demonstration of the product at a recent Question & Answer (Q&A) session, I took a longer look at anti-tracking extensions and decided the presentation should be a comparison between two of the available products. The second product I researched and installed is Ghostery. Ghostery is a browser extension for Edge, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Android, and iOS developed by Ghostery, Inc.

Privacy Badger

Privacy Badger observes and learns who is tracking you rather than maintaining a manual list of trackers. Even if there is a third-party tracker that is unknown, or new, Privacy Badger sees that tracker. If Privacy Badger sees the tracker three times, it blocks that tracker. Privacy Badger blocks by behaviour and not by a third-party controlled list that could be sold to advertisers. Privacy Badger learns on its own and displays an icon showing how many trackers it has seen on a website. If it breaks a website’s functionality, you can quickly disable it on that site.

The following is what the Privacy Badger interface looks like on my home computer (Note the results shown are from the Stuff website):

Here is a link to a short technical review video on YouTube about what Privacy Badger is.  This very much looks like the interviewee is in his bedroom at home but he does tell you a bit.  Link to Privacy Badger review 

And here is a link to Privacy Badger itself (sadly, it doesn’t work for MS Edge yet)

Ghostery

Ghostery Blocks ads, stops trackers and speeds up websites. Ghostery’s built-in ad blocker removes advertisements from a webpage to eliminate clutter so you can focus on the content you want. Ghostery allows you to view and block trackers on websites you browse to control who collects your data. It anonymizes your data, speeds up page loads and optimizes page performance by automatically blocking and unblocking trackers. Ghostery reports all tracking detected, and whether Ghostery has blocked them or not, in a “findings window” found by clicking on the Ghostery Icon in the browser.  You can also configure Ghostery to display the list of trackers present on the page in a temporary purple box (also shown below).

This is what Ghostery reported for the Stuff Website on my home computer.

Following is a link to the Ghostery website. Click on the Learn More link at the website to learn more how Ghostery works.Here the link to the Ghostery website

Web Tracking

Web tracking is the activity and ability of a website to keep tabs on website visitors. This Web tracking is meant to improve your experience online with websites, but these bits of code track not only what sites you are visiting, but what you did at those sites. They track what you search for and where you search for it and record the information so it can be shared without your permission.

All this happens in the background, behind the scenes, and without your knowledge or approval. Between all your favourite websites, thousands of advertisers, and online tracking companies, there is bound to be a handful of groups that want to know what you are doing.

While the advertising that results from tracking helps to support the accessibility of web content, including keeping some of your favourite sites up and running, not all tracking is welcome.

Your personal information is valuable, and it is your right to know what data is collected about you — your age, income, family’s ages and income, medical history, dietary habits, favourite web sites, your birthday and the list goes on. This tracking cannot only feel like a violation of privacy, but on a practical level, it can also result in longer page load times and wasted bandwidth.

I could go on and on about privacy and tracking and I do not want to frighten anyone away from the technology I personally think is exciting and useful. I just want to be more aware of what is happening to my personal data, how it is used, why it is used, and who is using it.  When I know these things I am able to make better decisions about when to share and when not to.

Teresa

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