Protect yourself from online tracking

Online tracking is a widespread practice with questionnable ethics and legal backing. Learn how to limit your data from being collected unwillingly and disrupt the tracking industry!

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Imagine an ordinary day online: in the morning you check your e-mail and scroll through your favourite sites to learn about the latest news. At lunch you decide to try the new restaurant in the neighboorhood. It's so good you post a picture of your meal on Instagram and you tag the restaurant. In the evening you find yourself daydreaming and end up checking the prices of flights to go on that well deserved holiday.

The next day you will start seeing ads for similar restaurants to the one you tried, or other restaurants in your area, as well as deals for the top touristic attractions and hotels for your getaway. Why does this happen? Are your online activities monitored ? Well, yes, pretty much: this is the online advertising industry (AdTech) at work, using your personal data not only to target you with ads, but feeding a data-hungry ecosystem that seeks to track you wherever you click, go and speak.

Almost anything you do online leaves digital footprints. Part of it is understandable - it makes sense that the website you are visiting gets to know something about you, such as the simple fact that you visited it. But most online services you use, whether these are an app, website or smart device, don't keep this information for themselves. Behind the scenes there are third parties - entities unrelated to the service you use - with different purposes. While some are necessary or functional (like a third party offering fonts), many of them are there with the sole purpose of gathering information about you, having nothing to do with the site you visited in the first place. Most of the time this data is collected to target you with ads you're more likely to be vulnerable to, but once this information is collected and feeds into your online profile, it lays out of your control and can be used for anything. It's like having small spies lurking while you go around doing your online errands, scrupulously taking notes of what makes you unique, with the sole purpose of selling or sharing this information.

The good news is, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself from online tracking, while helping to disrupt this industry. This guide will help you browse the web more anonymously, making it harder to uniquely identify and monitor you while blocking the online advertising industry's tracking tools and preventing data collection. As a nice side effect, following these steps will also make your web browsing experience smoother by blocking ads and put an end to using your mobile data allowance with unrequested content (ads and trackers can use up to 50% of your data!).

Above all, taking the steps layed down in these guides is a statement - a step forward in disrupting a prevalent exploitation happening invisibly. It is a way of expressing your discontent with the Adtech industry practices by rendering it completely inefficient. Blocking ads and trackers is equivalent to blocking the raw material supply for a factory, it prevents these companies from putting their hands the data points they need to function and neutralise their products. Having a great number of people taking such measures to block online advertising may eventually force the Adtech industry to reconsider its practices and better respect users' privacy and choices, developing and offering products that don't rely on personal data to function.¹

¹ Note: while problematic from a data exploitation perspective, targeted advertising is unfortunately a very widespread way of monetising websites and apps. If you appreciate the content you consume and have the means to support them or if you know that the services you use don't abusively exploit your personal information, consider donating, subscribing or selectively disabling some of the tools mentioned in these guides on these websites.

Why

Online tracking is a widespread practice with questionnable ethics and legal backing, relying on an industry that has been under heavy legal fire for the past years. From tracking pixels to fingerprinting, there are dozens of way you can tracked and profiled online. While the usual intent of this tracking is to serve you targeted ads, the profiles generated can be used for many other purposes and can inform decision about you without you knowing (such as increasing the price of your insurance if you visit a health related website). If you are interested in what such profile might look like, have a look at what received when asking a company to provide they had about one of us. But broadly speaking, once your data has been collected, there is little you can do to control it.

This guide is here to help you protect your privacy while annoying the tracking industry by blocking their tools and preventing data collection, expressing your discontent with their practices. This will also make your web experience better by blocking ads and mak you a little more discret on the web. Finally, these steos will render online advertisement partially inneffective since invisble. A great number of people taking such measure to block online advertising will force the Adtech industry to reconsider its practices and better respect users' privacy and choices.

Disclaimer

The online advertising industry is diverse and its practices evolve constantly. You will most likely never be able to block everything and avoid any personal data leak. This guide should nonetheless help you reduce the amount of data that you unknowingly share with tracking companies. In addition, please be aware that we have not carried out an in-depth assessment of the security and privacy implications of the measures, products or services we recommend in this guide, and only do so based on our own experience of their use. We do not update this guide regularly and therefore some information or recommendation may become out of date - before taking any of the recommended steps, we strongly urge you to enquire into their suitability for your own devices and to review each product's policies and features. Note in particular that not all add-ons are safe and respectful of your privacy. While this should not be the case for any of the add-ons mentioned in these guides, many add-ons made available online are actually malware or trackers themselves collecting and sharing data about you.

⚠️ Keep in mind that the services you use on the internet and the accounts you create with them are the primary source of information for many companies. Online tracking is simply another way for companies to collect information and profile you.

Glossary

Browser

The software you use to browse the internet. Most popular browser are Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Edge.

Browser addon

A plugin that extend the functionnalities of your browser. Addons are browser specific, an addon for Firefox might not be available for Chrome. Addons can be nefarious, don't install anything without prior research.

DNS server

On the Internet, requests to access websites are routed to IP addresses. Since IP addresses are hard to remember, we usually address hosts by their host-name (e.g privacyinternational.org). As such, and because IP addresses can change frequently, when your computer wants to access a server by its host-name, it asks a DNS server what the IP address for that host-name is, so that it can route the request.

Guide step

Blokada is a free and open-source mobile application that uses DNS servers to block ads and trackers on your device to enhance your privacy. In this guide you'll learn how to install Blokada on your iOS device.

Guide step

Until recently, advertisers have been able to track users across their iPhones and the web using the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), a unique identifier that could be accessed by the apps you used and the site you visited. From version 14.5 of iOS, Apple gives you the option to opt out of tracking that apps would normally try to do. This guide shows you where to find these settings on your phone, and how to tweak them to keep pesky data hungry companies off the radar.

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Android offers a way for advertisers to uniquely identify you in order to track your activity across applications and websites you consume on your mobile device. In this guide you'll learn how to hinder tracking on your Android device either by periodically resetting your Ad ID or by opting out completely.

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Blokada is a free and open-source mobile application that uses DNS servers to block ads and trackers on your device to enhance your privacy. In this guide you'll learn how to install Blokada on your Android device.

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Advertisers need to uniquely identify you across apps and websites in order to aggregate data they might collect about you from those sources. To do so, Microsoft issues an Ad ID for your device, which it then shares with advertisers so they can serve you ads based on your data. In this guide you'll learn how to opt-out of targeted ads on Windows.

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Apple offers a way for advertisers to uniquely identify you in order to track your activity across applications and websites you consume on your mobile device. In this guide you'll learn how to hinder tracking on your MacOS device either by periodically resetting your Ad ID or by opting out completely.

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uBlock Origin is a general purpose blocker for web browsers that blocks ads, trackers, and malware sites by default. In this guide, you'll learn how to install uBlock Origin on Chrome and its derivatives (Opera, Chromium, Brave...)

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In this guide, you'll learn how to install Privacy Badger on Chrome, a browser add-on developed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation to block malicious ads and trackers.

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In this guide you'll learn how to configure your Chrome browser settings to harden your online privacy.

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uBlock Origin is a general purpose blocker for web browsers that blocks ads, trackers, and malware sites by default. In this guide, you'll learn how to install uBlock Origin on Firefox.

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In this guide, you'll learn how to install Privacy Badger on Firefox, a browser add-on developed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation to block malicious ads and trackers.

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'Firefox provides you with several mechanisms to protect your privacy. However, some of them are not enabled by default. In this guide you'll learn how to configure your Firefox browser settings to strengthen your online privacy.

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In this guide, you'll learn how to install Privacy Badger on Edge, a browser add-on devcelopped by the Electronic Frontier Foundation to block malicious ads and trackers.

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In this guide you'll learn how to configure your Edge browser settings to harden your online privacy.

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uBlock Origin is a general purpose blocker for web browsers that blocks ads, trackers, and malware sites by default. In this guide, you'll learn how to install uBlock Origin on Microsoft Edge.

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In this guide you'll learn how to configure your Safari browser settings to enhance your online privacy.

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The HTTP referrer header can be very revealing in the context of online tracking. Learn how you can change the policy in Vivaldi to force the browser to include the minimum information in this header or even block it entierely.

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The HTTP referrer header can be very revealing in the context of online tracking. Learn how you can change the policy in Chrome to force the browser to include the minimum information in this header or even block it entierely.

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In this guide, you'll learn how to install Random User Agent on Chrome (and derivatives), an add-on to periodically change your browser's user agent and make it harder for trackers to fingerprint you.

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Browser cookies can be useful but are often abused to track your online activity across the web. In this guide you'll learn how to install Cookie AutoDelete, a web-browser add-on that automatically deletes unused cookies.

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Decentraleyes is a browser add-on used for local content delivery network (CDN) emulation, that protects your privacy by evading large CDNs (e.g. Google Hosted Libraries). In this guide, you'll learn how to install Decentraleyes on Chrome (and derivatives) to prevent CDNs from tracking your online activity.

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Browser cookies can be useful but are often abused to track your online activity across the web. In this guide you'll learn how to install Cookie AutoDelete, a web-browser add-on that automatically deletes unused cookies.

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One way to minimize tracking and improve your online privacy is to store as few browsing cookies as possible on your device. However, in websites such as your email client or your note-taking web application, it's practical to have cookies stored so that you don't have to login each time you visit. In this guide you'll learn how to install and setup Firefox Multi-Account Containers to keep parts of your online activity isolated from each other, thus reducing your digital footprint.

Guide step

Decentraleyes is a browser add-on used for local content delivery network (CDN) emulation, that protects your privacy by evading large CDNs (e.g. Google Hosted Libraries). In this guide, you'll learn how to install Decentraleyes on Firefox to prevent CDNs from tracking your online activity.

Guide step

In this guide, you'll learn how to install Random User Agent on Firefox, an add-on to periodically change your browser's user agent and make it harder for trackers to fingerprint you.

Guide step

The HTTP referrer header can be very revealing in the context of online tracking. Learn how you can change the policy in Firefox to force the browser to include the minimum information in this header or even block it entierely.

Guide step

Browser cookies can be useful but are often abused to track your online activity across the web. In this guide you'll learn how to install Cookie AutoDelete, a web-browser add-on that automatically deletes unused cookies.

Guide step

The HTTP referrer header can be very revealing in the context of online tracking. Learn how you can change the policy in Opera to force the browser to include the minimum information in this header or even block it entierely.