You’re being stalked while you browse online. I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. Browser users are being stalked, hunted, and captured as prey buy the online advertising community. Can anything be done to protect your privacy and security while you browse?
Just a few months ago Apple announced Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) in Safari. The idea was to limit third-party trackers which could capture cross-site browsing data. Ads were not blocked, but ITP would not allow cookie information to be shared.
macOS High Sierra was released this week and with it Safari’s new ITP privacy protections. Apple’s moves disrupted the online advertising tracking industry which needs that cross-site browsing data to create a more accurate dossier of your browsing habits.
Thank you, Apple. Uh oh. Google is back. The worst offender for online advertising, ad tracking, and the company responsible for culling human lives in data form implemented a countermeasure. For advertisers who use Google’s AdWords and Analytics– these make up a large portion of Google’s revenue– nothing changes despite Apple’s attempts to give Safari users more privacy.
The key to this response to Apple’s privacy initiative is the ability for Google to triangulate user information appropriately, mostly thanks to the Analytics tracker which is pervasive among websites these days.
Website owners and administrators want to know who is visiting their websites, which pages they visit, where they come from, how long they visit, and when they return. Analytics captures that information and website owners and administrators get the information for free.
Free is hard to turn down.
Now that free option is being used to track website visitors that use Safari’s new Intelligent Tracking Prevention. The new Analytics cookie can be set to the advertiser’s domain as a first-party cookie, therefore, acceptable to Safari’s ITP.
Ipso facto, you lose, and Google (and their army of advertisers) wins.
What can you do to prevent being tracked online?
There isn’t an easy answer because it depends upon how serious you are about being tracked, hunted, stalked and captured as prey by Google and other ad trackers, but one way is to use an ad blocker. For Safari on the Mac, iPhone, or iPad, there are many from which to choose. I’m using Better Blocker now because it’s priced right and speeds up website page downloads, plus it runs on everything Apple. I don’t recommend using it all the time– it’s an app owned by a member of the advertising community– but Ghostery can show you how much you’re being tracked online. It’s scary.
Notice that my website, NoodleMac, does not contain advertising trackers, visitor trackers, analytics trackers, or even a site cookie. They’re gone. That’s why NoodleMac loads up so fast on your browser.
The next step toward privacy– other than going off the grid entirely– is to use a virtual private network (VPN). That helps to anonymize your online browsing habits. To start, try using the new Opera because it blocks ads and comes with a built-in VPN which bypasses your local internet service provider..
Remember, nearly every website you visit these days has multiple tracking mechanisms built-in and they’re difficult to avoid, so travel carefully. Also, those advertisers and their trackers often work in concert– they share data and built a portfolio or dossier about your household, and, if you’re using Google’s Gmail and login to your account and use the Google search engine, they know exactly who you are.
Yes, it’s a jungle out there. But you’re the one being hunted as prey.