Sunday 5 October 2014

We Know Where You Are - Privacy is a thing of the past

Isn't it weird: you've just been looking for a watch or a smartphone or some doggy-treats at an online store. Then you log onto some other site or start browsing around Facebook and there, by sheer coincidence, you see some adverts for exactly the items you were just looking for. What are the chances of that happening, 'ey...?

Well, the fact of the matter is that the chances are very good indeed. Because there really is nothing coincidental about it. When you log onto a site, there are lots of little software snoopers scurrying about behind the scenes keeping track of exactly where you go and what you look at. But wait a minute! you say, They can't do that because I've disabled cookies in my browser!

Nah, cookies are old technology. These days there are much sneakier ways to keep track of where you've been (see this article in The Observer newspaper for more information) and there's nothing you can do to prevent it happening. Well, actually, there is something you can do. You can install the Ghostery plugin. This monitors each site you visit and provides a report on all the trackers it finds there. It lets you selectively disable trackers for each site. 

Here I am browsing an online store. Ghostery tells me it has no less than 16 trackers watching me! I can block them one at a time. With luck that may help reduce the unwanted advertising that targets me when I visit other sites.
My advice to you: get Ghostery. But will this guarantee your Internet browsing privacy? I very much doubt it. This is big business; and where business is concerned the big money usually wins. So for every counter-measure we take to protect our privacy, you can bet that there are people out there working away at counter-counter-measures. But for the time being, Ghostery is the best thing I know of to try to grab back at least a bit of control over your life (and privacy) online.