Digital Privacy – Enough with All the Online Advertising Already!
If you are like me, you are beginning (beginning? Hah!) to find browsing the internet less and less enjoyable. It seems every single web site anymore has multiple ad banners, click bait, and streaming videos much the same as TV’s most irritating and intellect-debasing adverts. And of course, you don’t get to see your content until all those catchy-flashy bits of super-important consumer information finish loading – or at least if you do, the page continues to reset itself continuously until finally finished ensuring we don’t miss out this weekend’s Walmart Super-Special.
More than just an irritation
It would seem that the internet is convinced I want to start a massive collection of gas-powered, self-propelled lawnmowers. I bought one over a year ago but no matter where I go now, I am greeted with my 317th unbelievable deal on a new lawnmower that I would be an idiot to pass on. Easy enough to ignore I suppose but it seriously highlights the fact that I am a target and everything I do or look for is for sale. I’m just glad I haven’t been searching for ED pills or hemorrhoid cream. Basically, if you want to use the web to research anything, you are giving up your search privacy and your right to not be solicited to at every click of the mouse. “They” would have you believe that gathering this information ensures that you will only be targeted for things that you find of interest, but what if I don’t want to be targeted at all?
The trend gets worse with “free” apps. The key thing to note about free anything is that there is no such thing as free anything. Never has been, never will be. Most “app store-like” apps are as insidious as the web. The free ones do the same thing: they watch where you go and target you for advertising. Even the apps for purchase do – the only difference is they gather the info, then sell it to free app makers. And even worse, most apps on your phone track your location so they know you stopped at Canadian Tire on the weekend. Anyone care to guess what happens next? If you said “popup ads for crap from the King of Crap” you’d be spot on.
What to do?
My opinion (which I am not afraid to use) is that if advertisers want access to (my) information about what would appear to be worth millions in lawnmower sales, they should be paying me for it. But since that is as likely as a Canuck’s Stanley Cup next year lets go with the following tips. These tips will help, but they wont stop it – nothing stops “progress”…
1. Don’t use Google or Bing (ok, so no one uses Bing anyways). Use DuckDuckGo instead. It’s far better at cloaking your searches. So if you do have hemorrhoids, you’ll be the only one who knows it. Go to duckduckgo.com and click the Learn More link if you want to get the living hell scared out of you about traditional search.
2. Don’t use Chrome or Internet Explorer. Use Mozilla Firefox instead. Chrome and IE do not yet have any capability to block ads. Chrome promises a filter for “dodgy” ads soon but no actual way to block them – of course they don’t! When you earn $60B on ad revenue (hat’s $Billion with a B), that would be considered counter-productive now, wouldn’t it. Firefox allows you to install a free extension called Ad-block that can nuke over 90% of ads including the streaming vids and click-bait. I have yet to figure out just what free actually costs in this case but maybe there is such a thing as a free lunch after all.
3. Pay attention to the rights and privileges that apps on your phone want. Many of them want the keys to the kingdom but most of them don’t need them to run. For example, I have the Auto-Trader app on my phone and it really likes to record my location on a regular basis. This happens even when I have not used the app in weeks or months. Listen up Auto-Trader! It’s none of your damn business where I go and who I see, like – ever! My current phone has a built-in app that allows you to view and customize (very easily and quickly, I might add) the privileges my apps have to location, camera, contacts, phone, email and messaging, and just about anything else your phone may have. It can even notify you when an app uses these rights. You can sort by app or by the particular privileges. You will find most apps have rights to stuff they just do not need and most of them run just fine when you remove said rights. My phone and the app, you ask? BlackBerry Priv running Android, the app is DTEK. There are literally tons of apps out there that can do this, but this particular one is stellar. Just be careful that the app you choose isn’t guilty of doing the exact thing it purports to prevent.