Despite a growing chorus of computer users yelling to high heaven about online trackers, most computer users, tablet owners, and smartphone users pay little heed to the threat of hackers, let alone legally authorized trackers who create an online dossier of your personal digital and purchasing habits.
You’re being tracked to the point of stalking and most people don’t know it. Too many of those who know it don’t bother to do anything about it because, you know, out of sight, out of mind.
As much as I think Apple colludes way too much with Google– a few billion dollars changes hands to keep Google as the default search engine on Safari– Apple also gives us ways to curb the tracking of our private information.
Google, Facebook, Amazon, and other tracker entities build a profile about you and your online activities; whether it’s the website you visit, the searches you make, or what you buy and who you like, friend, or follow online– you’re being stalked by each one and advertisers share and collect that data.
Apple’s Safari on the Mac has an Intelligent Tracking Protection option which reduces the cross-site tracking that goes on in the background, sight unseen to most of us. But that is limited to the past 24 hours of browsing. Advertisers don’t like that feature and Google already has a way around it. Firefox has a similar function called Disconnect but you have to opt in to use it.
What can you do to prevent or reduce tracking?
This isn’t easy and it’s definitely inconvenient, but a VPN is a good start. A virtual private network disengages your internet service providers IP address which often is at the heart of tracking. The Cookie app removes tracking cookies daily or at timed intervals. Use a different search engine on different browsers. DuckDuckGo on Safari, for example, then Bing on Opera or Firefox. Opera has its own built-in VPN. The Brave browser also blocks ads and tracker scripts.
To see just how much you’re being tracked by Google, Amazon, Facebook, and other advertisers, do a little test.
Pick a product– say, backpacks. Then use Google to search for backpacks. Use Amazon to search for backpacks. Search a dozen times over the course of a day. Then, watch what happens.
For most of us, we’ll start to see advertisements popup as we browse the web– for backpacks. They’ll show up on Facebook and various websites you visit, including subsequent visits to Google. And, you’re just as likely to start getting email spam about backpacks. Yes, advertisers know which email address is tied to your IP address, your search engine results, as well as what you search for on Amazon or view on Facebook. If you read articles about backpacks, that only enhances the deluge of information you’ll see about backpacks for the next two weeks.
Apple allows for apps like Cookie and various ad and script blockers to run in Safari but other browsers do better. Firefox Focus for iPhone and iPad ups the level of security and reduces tracking. Brave has built-in tracker blockers.
Yes, Apple helps privacy and security on every device but the company could do more. Since Apple sits on a few hundred billion dollars how about an iCloud VPN where all advertisers and trackers are blocked? Apple can afford it. Apple customers want it.