The big tech firms – Facebook, Google, Twitter and others – track you everywhere you go online. Every single advert, website and social network button collects information about your browsing habits, location, tastes and preferences, building up a complete profile of who you are. That data can reveal an awful lot about who you are.
It’s unsettling, especially when specific ads seem to follow you around the web. If you’ve ever done a quick Google search asking for advice on how to treat a headache, and then you keep coming across ads for painkillers, you’ll understand. Even if you try to be clever and avoid tweeting about your medical issues or sharing your political views on Facebook, for instance, the chances are good that they know exactly what kind of person you are.
Avoid Being Tracked Online
The good news is there are many technology tools around these days that make it harder for you to be tracked. A simple browser extension such as uBlock Origin will not only block those creepy and repetitive ads, but will also prevent those same ads from collecting data on you. In addition, it provides an easy way to turn off ad blocking on those few sites you do want to support.
You can also combine uBlock with a second extension such as Privacy Badger, which blocks cookies and trackers, so ads won’t follow you around on social media so much.
Another, more time-consuming step that it’s possible to take is to disable interest-based ads from companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, and Twitter. All four websites, and many more, actually provide users with the option to opt-out of data collection, but they insist you do so manually and make it difficult to do so.
To opt-out of Google’s data collection, first, sign into any Google website (such as Gmail), then click the icon in the top right > Manage your Google Account > Manage your data & personalization. Navigate to Web & App Activity > then hit the Pause button to opt-out of data collection.
Another alternative to keep social media in check is to use a private browser such as DuckDuckGo on mobile or the Incognito mode on Google Chrome. That will prevent them from being able to track you so effectively as they won’t be able to link your activity on other websites or know your location. For Facebook specifically, Mozilla Firefox users can also consider the Facebook Container extension that helps you to block your activity there from the rest of the web, thereby limiting its reach considerably. So Facebook will no longer know about what you’re searching for on Google, or on Amazon, for example.
It’s also worth considering the use of a Virtual Private Network, otherwise known as a VPN. No matter what tools you use to conceal your browsing activity, all of your Internet traffic goes through your personal Internet Service Provider, or ISP. That means it can see all of the sites you visit, how long you stay on those sites, your location and also information about the devices you use to access them. ISPs collect a lot of rich personal data and create detailed profiles on their customers, and will happily sell that data to third-party advertisers. So even if you browse in private mode, someone still knows what you’re doing.
Using a VPN to connect to the Internet makes it much more difficult for an ISP to track you and collect this information.
Regain Control Of Your Data
While it is possible to prevent companies from tracking you online, doing so takes a concerted effort. A much better solution might be to take control of your data and share it only with the brands and companies you’re willing to work with, on your terms.
If that sounds like a good idea, you can check out a new mobile app called Profila, which is Cardano blockchain-based, zero-knowledge advertising platform designed to give people complete control over the data they generate from browsing online.
Profile describes itself as a data, customer engagement and marketing platform that gives users the right to control who uses their data and for what purpose. With the app, individuals can allow certain brands of their choice to access their data, so they can get to know them better and provide a superior experience that’s not only personalized, but highly ethical too.
The key thing here is that users determine exactly what kind of relationship they’ll have with each brand, choosing which data they can and cannot access, and letting them know how often they’re willing to tolerate being contacted by that brand. What’s more, users get paid for sharing their data too, earning up to 50% of the ad budget that brand pays each time a company sends them commercial content. That’s money that would normally go to Facebook or Google, but instead it goes directly into the user’s pocket.
Besides getting paid, Profila makes it easy for people to hold brands fully accountable for how they use their data. Nothing can happen without the user’s consent, and any company that fails to comply can instantly and forever be cut off from accessing their data.