Screenshot of cnn.com taken in the Brave web browser on 2020–07–17. The website contained at least 52 trackers.

Trackers Follow You Around the Web and Collect Your Data. Here’s How to Prevent Them.

On some websites, even 50+ different trackers collect your data.

Jacob Bergdahl
Jul 28, 2020 · 4 min read

The Cambridge Analytica scandal made the greater public consciousness of how data-collecting companies are using social networks to track people around the internet and use their data for malicious purposes. Yet, a common misconception is that a company like Facebook only gathers data about its users while on one of their platforms. Not so. Large companies like Google, Oracle, Facebook, Amazon, Bing, and more track users around the web, in order for them to provide targeted advertisements.

A simple visit to cnn.com and some 50+ trackers and advertisers collects data on you, happy to send the information back to their mother base. Google, Adobe, AppNexus, Nativo, Outbrain, Quantcast, and Salesforce are some of the companies who identify you when you visit this website. Naturally, this is not unique to CNN. Visit NBC or ABC, and some 20+ trackers will happily follow you around.

While you may be already aware of these companies tracking you, you may be unaware of how you can prevent them from doing so. Here are three free and easy ways you can stop trackers.

Big fan of Firefox or Chrome? Worry not. You can prevent trackers in these browsers with ease. Personally, I use the DuckDuckGo browser extension in these browsers. It’s available in the add-on/app store of both browsers.

When you install the extension into your browser, a small icon will appear in the upper right corner. This icon indicates the estimated privacy level of the website. The add-on blocks all malicious trackers.

A screenshot of the DuckDuckGo browser extension running in Firefox web browser. In this scenario, I am visiting walmart.com, wherein the extension has blocked seven trackers. This screenshot was taken on 2020–07–17.

Founded in 2015 by JavaScript inventor and former Mozilla (Firefox) CEO Brendan Eich, Brave is a web browser that automatically blocks all trackers. I’ve been using it myself as my primary browser on mobile since its first release in 2016, and I occasionally use it on desktop as well.

It’s a very competent browser that requires no additional extensions to thwart stalkers.

A screenshot from the Brave web browser. In this scenario, I am visiting ABC News, wherein the browser has blocked 27 trackers. This screenshot was taken on 2020–07–17.

Obviously, if you want to not only stop trackers from bothering you but require an additional level of privacy, Tor is the way to go. This is the web browser that everyone serious about internet privacy uses, but unlike the two previous methods, it does come with downsides. While the DuckDuckGo extension and the Brave web browser make your surfing experience faster by blocking bandwidth-abusing trackers, Tor does make your experience a bit slower as it routes you through different servers.

The website of choice for whistleblowers, Tor offers perhaps the highest level of anonymity that free software can offer. Make no mistake: Tor does not provide absolute anonymity — but it’s incredibly competent considering the fact that you pay nothing for using it.

Tor is an overkill for most users who could simply use Brave instead, but if you want to make companies seize tracking you completely, it’s the best choice you have without paying for a VPN.

A screenshot from the Tor web browser. The browser is routing me through several IP addresses to provide me with anonymity. With a click of a button, I can reset my identity. This screenshot was taken on 2020–07–17.

Blocking trackers is incredibly easy. It takes but a few seconds of your time to install a free extension into the web browser you are already using, which not only helps you retain your privacy but even make your browsing experience faster.

I believe that the tracker-blocking features that come built-in with Brave will become more common among mainstream browsers in the future, but for now, you’ll have to install an additional plugin to remain private in the public’s favorite browsers.

It’s well worth the few seconds of your time that you invest.

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Jacob Bergdahl

Written by

Full-stack developer. About: https://jacobbergdahl.com/. LinkedIn: https://bit.ly/2T1LzgW.

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +793K followers.

Jacob Bergdahl

Written by

Full-stack developer. About: https://jacobbergdahl.com/. LinkedIn: https://bit.ly/2T1LzgW.

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +793K followers.

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