If you're reading this, it's probably because you are wanting to change how companies online are tracking you. Or maybe you read our post about the different ways companies are tracking you and you think it's a bit creepy or annoying that ads follow you around the web. If that's you, then you probably started thinking, "Can I get them to stop tracking me and how?" Read below to find out how.
The answer is yes! However, depending on what device you're using or how technically savvy you are, it may be harder to control how much information you're able to keep from being tracked.
In our previous article, these are the different ways we mentioned companies are tracking you:
Below are general ways you can control how you're being tracked based on different methods companies use to keep and track your information.
Depending on the browser you're using, there are different ways to delete your cookies and limit the ones going on your computer. Different browsers have different privacy preferences and if that's important to you, do your research to figure out which one works best. Send us an email at email@example.com and we're happy to recommend some for you!
The option to edit, delete, or clear your cookies is typically in the browser settings. Use the 'Help' or 'Tools' tab for settings like 'Options' or 'Privacy'. The results of this will allow you to delete or clear cookies and control where you're okay having them (if you're okay keeping cookies).
Certain browsers will allow add-ons or extensions that make it easier to block, delete, or control cookies. Other security software may also have easy ways to control cookies. Deleting cookies allows you to disassociate yourself from your past browsing history, however, companies may be able to track you in the future with new cookies if you do not change the controls.
Blocking your cookies entirely can change your online browsing experience, so take the time to decide what is most important to you - giving up some data to make things more convenient, or keep things completely private online. Staying private online through the deleting and blocking of cookies make it hard for companies to provide personalized content for you and may require you to repeatedly enter personal information when filling out forms. If you're okay with that, then blocking cookies may be a good option for you.
Deleting or controlling Flash cookies can be done through the browser settings if you have the latest version of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Microsoft Internet Explorer. If you do not see the option, you are likely working with an older version of the browser. If possible, upgrade to the most recent version and you'll be able to change your settings and delete Flash cookies.
If your browser is not letting you delete the Flash cookies, then take a look at Adobe's Website Storage Settings panel. Through the panel, you'll be able to view and delete Flash cookies as well as control how you'll allow them on your computer moving forward.
Like first and third-party cookies, deleting Flash cookies only disposes of Flash cookies on your computer at the moment. In the future, if you have not changed your settings, Flash cookies can be placed on your computer the next time you browse a site with Flash cookies.
This is a tough area to control because device fingerprinting isn't about collecting personal information like cookies do, but rather "fingerprints" based on the device/browser you use.
There are certain browser plugins that protect users, to some extent, and services that audit browsers and generate reports regarding a device's fingerprint. Research which ones are a good fit for you.
Reset identifiers on your device via device settings.
On iOS devices, do the following: Settings -> Privacy -> Advertising -> Reset Advertising Identifies.
On Android devices, do the following: Google Settings -> Ads -> Reset Advertising ID.
Similar to deleting or clearing cookies in a browser, doing the above only makes it hard to associate your past activity to your device. Tracking can start again using a new advertising identifier. You can limit the use of identifiers for ad targeting.
By turning this setting on, you are limiting or blocking apps from using the advertising identifier to serve consumer targeted ads.
On iOS devices, do the following to limit ad tracking: Settings -> Privacy -> Advertising -> Limit Ad Tracking.
On Android devices, do the following opt out of Internet-Based Ads: Google Settings -> Ads -> Opt Out of Internet-Based Ads.
Turning on the limit/opt out functionality will only limit the use of your data for ads, however, companies may still be able to monitor your app usage for other purposes (like research, measurement, and fraud prevention).
Mobile browsers function similarly to traditional web browsers and tracking
controls are very similar (see the "Controlling Tracking Cookies" sections above).
Many browsers offer private browsing settings or "incognito" mode which allow you to keep browsing activities private from those using the same device. Private browsing/incognito mode doesn't allow the browser to retain cookies, browsing history, search records, or downloaded files. Not all private browsers operate the same, so check your browser to see what data it stores.
Note: Cookies used while browsing (even on private/incognito mode) can still communicate your browsing behavior to third parties. Thus, third parties may still be able to use device fingerprinting to track your web activity.
Some websites and advertising networks allow you to set what cookies you are or are not okay with giving for use with targeted advertising. (All companies that work with EU citizens must include an opt-out option because of GDPR.)
The NAI (Network Advertising Initiative) and the DAA (Digital Advertising Alliance) offer tools for opting out of targeted advertising as well. However, if you delete all of your cookies, these "opt-out" cookies will be deleted as well.
Most internet browsers allow users to use the "Do Not Track" setting so they are not tracked when browsing the web. This option signals websites that you visit that you don't want to be tracked. If companies have committed to respect your "Do Not Track" preference, then they are legally obligated to do so. Unfortunately, most companies have not committed to honor these user preferences.
If your aim is to stay anonymous online because you really value your privacy, then we recommend using a VPN in conjunction to blocking cookies. Combining both methods will keep your valuable data and information away from companies profiting from you data.
VPN stands for virtual private network and I like to think of it as a tunnel from your device (computer, laptop, phone, etc...) to another computer (server) on the internet, typically in a different location as you. Using a VPN allows you to surf the web using that computer's connection, which gives you a lot of privacy in comparison to going without one.
There are many reasons you should use a VPN. In short, using a VPN is the quickest, most convenient way to protect your security, privacy, and anonymity online. If you care about that, or if you want to access geo-restricted content (like Netflix while you're abroad), access sites or apps censored by your school or government, keep your info safe on public Wi-Fi networks, or stop ISPs, governments, and other third-parties from tracking you online, then we recommend you use a VPN.
There are various options out there, depending on your needs. Some are paid and some are free. Do your due diligence when choosing a VPN as some VPNs have been caught logging user data - the opposite of what they're supposed to be doing! Others slow down your browsing experience or limit how much you can use them for. We personally recommend FreePN, a VPN we designed to solve those pain points mentioned - free of charge to everyone! It's the world's first and only completely free, fast, secure, anonymous, unlimited-bandwidth VPN.
You can download FreePN here. Unlike other VPNs, we don't collect any of your personal information. You don't need to make an account to use FreePN and we never log any of your information. We aim to protect your privacy and help you remain anonymous online the best we can.
We're so confident in our claims that we've made FreePN's code completely open-source. Check our source code for yourself here!