I spend a lot of my day online. Searching for solutions for projects, restaurants, advice, etc. Online forums, restaurant review sites, and many other places … my browser history is big every day. Sometimes I get a little disturbed by how often my searches show up in ads showing to me – not just in GMail but Facebook, etc.
I know I'm not the only one that is concerned. This post describes all the steps I took. This post is filled with things I have done. The timeframe is about a year and a half.
Rid myself of social media apps
I deleted my Twitter and Facebook app off my mobile devices and only access them via browser. That way I feel I have more control wiht permission on my device.
Multiple (and alternative) browsers
This is something I did before with limited success but doing it now seems to be better. I use Chrome for GMail and social media (Twitter, FB, etc) and do my daily browsing in Opera for everything else. Yes, I'm That Guy That Uses Opera. Actually Opera is basically Chrome with smaller memory and with built-in ad blocking. I find Opera really, really fast. And it can use Chrome extentions with no problem. So, yeah, I use Opera for all my searching and day-to-day work. And it's lovely.
And I do this both on my desktop and mobile. So, yes, I use Opera on my phone as well. Actually their mobile browser is what I used first. Anyway this is not a commercial for Opera – it's just what I use.
Now I felt pretty secure online but I kept reading about online fingerprinting… that even thought you were blocking ads, that advertising and bad people (which not all advertisers are) can finger print your browser characteristics and figure out who you are without sessions or cookies. While it is not full-proof, Privacy Badger does a good job of not only keeping the tracking toxins out of your browser make it look generic enough that you aren't tracked. It learns as you surf. So maybe it's not great on Day 1, but Day 3 gets a lot better.
You can test your own browser at EFF's Panopticlick . I dare ya.
Switching Search Engines
I like Google. It works better than anything else. But is it worth the cost? I decided to do an experiment and set my default search to DuckDuckGo and, if it didn't get an good answer (especially on my particularly thorny technical questions) I would then Google it. And you know – DuckDuckGo wasn't just merely adequate, in many situation I like it better.
DDG is smarter about showing you results. So if you do a search where a video may be the best answer, it automatically takes you to the videos. If you search for a something that has an answer in say, StackOverflow, it will show you the accepted answer on the top, as all as listing other results. Saves you a click. Features, not more results, is an important distinction.
Oh and their ideas about privacy are great too.
Therein lies my journey and my current status. Pardon me while I get a new tinfoil hat – I've worn this for over 2 hours.