Most of us who use a computer on a regular basis have had the unsettling experience of seeing online ads that fit our shopping and browsing habits follow us around the internet. By closely tracking our site visits, online purchases and web searches, search engines providers and advertisers are able to build up a made-to-fit portfolio of what might be appealing, and then inundate us with the propaganda for those findings no matter where we roam online. This might be unsettling for some.
Fortunately, it's easier than you might think to pull the blinds down on these digital peeping toms. Let Mac|Life show you how to turn your browser's privacy options up to eleven.
When Safari 5 hit the scene, it brought with it the ability to modify the browser's basic capabilities through the use of extensions. For those of us who prefer to do our browsing without Big Brother looking over our shoulder, Incognito by Orbitcule is a must-have. The extension blocks Google Adsense, Google Analytics, and best of all, Facebook, from reporting your internet interactions back to advertisers and other information hungry parties keen on knowing what you do with your online time.
The extension can be downloaded for free directly from the Incognito website. Once you have it up and running, you can access Incognito's options via Safari's Extensions Manager, which is found in the Preferences pane.
Incognito also blocks Google APIs, embedded YouTube videos, and B Kontakte -- a popular Russian language social networking site.
For Firefox users who want to keep their browsing habits from prying outside eyes, we recommend a free add-on called TrackerBlock from the folks at PrivacyChoice. You can install the Firefox add-on directly from the link.
When you restart your browser, you’ll be greeted by a TrackerBlock window with a lengthy list of advertising companies. You can choose to block individual companies, companies without oversight or all of the companies on the list. It’s just that simple.
If at any time you decide that you want to allow companies to have access to your browsing habits once again, click on Firefox’s Tools menu. You’ll find that a TrackerBlock menu item has been added, giving you the ability to change settings on the fly.
Keep My Opt-Outs functions in a similar manner to TrackerBlock, but offers fewer customization options. For example, where TrackerBlock offers users three different tiers of protection, Keep My Opt-Outs can only be turned on or off.
If you choose to install the extension, it will be turned on by default. If at any point you decide to turn it off, select the the Window menu from the menu bar at the top of your screen and click Extensions, where you’ll be given the open to either enable or disable it.
It's worth mention that Google, as part of their standard protocols, warns users that Keep My Op-Out might be capable of tracking user information. However, the extension's developer swears up and down that this isn't the case. As with any software, use your discretion when installing it.
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