You may know that most websites collect some data about your browsing habits when you visit the site. Some of these cookies are pretty benign, giving the site owners basic statistics they can use to customize content.
I use WordPress JetPack and Google Analytics on TedCurran.net so I can understand more about what my readers want to know. This data doesn’t identify you personally (at least not to me), but it tells me “5 people found my site by Googling ‘how to create a presentation like khan academy’”. That helps me to write about the topics that bring readers to my site.
However, other common trackers used on websites call out to weird 3rd party services that you’ve probably never heard of, sending them who-knows-what kinds of data about you. With the growing concern around surveillance on the web, it’s good to know when this is happening, and to have the option to block it if you can. The best way to do that is to use a browser-based plugin that actively shows you when you’re being tracked, and gives you the option to block unwanted tracking cookies.
I am now using PrivacyBadger from the Electronic Freedom Foundation, and the commercial (but not too weird) Ghostery in my Firefox and Chrome browsers to help block unwanted surveillance.https://www.eff.org/privacybadger
These browser plugins give you a friendly readout on every page you visit, showing which trackers are being used on that site, and giving you the option to block specific ones. I’m able, for example, to allow the GooglePlus API call that powers a social sharing button, but block a weird 3rd party ad service I’ve never heard of.
This GigaOm article gives a good overview of “the field” of privacy blocking plugins, and points out why Privacy Badger is special (hint: follow the money).
I’m using both Privacy Badger and Ghostery together because, between the two of them, they catch more cookies and don’t expose my data to 3rd party trackers. You may find that these plugins may disable some of the wanted (and unwanted) features of the websites you visit, so play with the settings until you can maximize the web goodies you want without all the hidden creepy stuff.
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