A reminder about online privacy

I just saw a CNN report on Internet privacy and how so many entities track your every move for fun and profit. Far too many Internet users never give any thought to privacy — and then they wonder why they get so much spam, junk snail mail, and robocalls.

The story reminded me that since switching to this Mac laptop almost two months ago, I’ve been so caught up in learning all the new stuff that I haven’t thought much about privacy, beyond adding Adblock Plus to Chrome and Firefox, the two browsers I’m currently using. It’s a great little feature, but it doesn’t do much to keep others from tracking and recording my online activity. Cookie-blocking helps some, but you have to tend to it to make sure it doesn’t block the cookies you need for online banking, shopping, etc.

Then I remembered Ghostery. I hadn’t added it! You might remember I talked about Ghostery a while back when I wrote about web bugs. Here’s an explanation of what it does:

Ghostery sees the “invisible” web, detecting trackers, web bugs, pixels, and beacons placed on web pages by Facebook, Google Analytics, and over 500 other ad networks, behavioral data providers, web publishers — all companies interested in your activity.

I do go into Ghostery and allow WordPress stats. That might be a mistake, but I want to be part of the hit count on other WordPress blogs.

How insidious are invisible trackers? My most annoying example for the last two years has been the time-share people. I think once — just once — I googled “time-shares” to see how they worked, and I probably browsed a few ads to see what was available in Estes Park. Since then I have been deluged with snail mail, email, and phone calls wanting to sell me a time-share or help me sell the one I have (Not!). I really, really hate phone calls like that.

Don’t get lazy about online privacy. It’s a cinch if you don’t respect your own privacy, neither will anyone else.


Full Disclosure: WordPress does its thing on this blog (I trust them). I’ve added StatCounter so I can see where in the world my readers are from (I’m curious, and WP doesn’t give me this info). And PollDaddy is a result of various polls in this blog (I just see poll results; I can’t speak for PollDaddy).

11 thoughts on “A reminder about online privacy

  1. Good advice. The thing that almost saved me from sales and political calls entirely was getting rid of my land line. Since then (nearly 3 years ago) I’ve received none. But… donating to a political candidate online is the same as broadcasting your email address worldwide a hundred times a second.

  2. Ghostery sounds very interesting, but I’m not sure if I really need it since I’ve got Firefox set to prevent tracking and to clear EVERYTHING after each session. I even use an external “cleaner” myself after each session, just to make sure! But I’ve bookmarked the page for later anyway since I don’t think there is such a thing as too much security.

    1. As I understand it, web bugs and such are embedded in the browser pages you look at and gather their information while you are on that page, much like hit counters grab your ISP, your location, what browser you’re using, etc. They don’t necesarily leave anything on your computer for you to clear.

      Oops, I just realized if I don’t whitelist Polldaddy, I can’t see the poll in my sidebar. Therein lies one of the problems with trying to block stuff.

      1. So it’s more of a “live” protection type thing? That sounds like the old “NoScript” add-on I used to have installed, which was a great idea but was way too complicated for me to get set up right. It blocked all scripts by default while allowing me to grant various levels of approval to individual sites, The problem was that I could never figure out why any one script was more “dangerous” than any other, which basically left me with the choice of blocking “all scripts” or “no scripts” – pun absolutely intended!

        I sure hope that Ghostery is easier to understand!

        1. I’m not sure what “live” protection is, but if I can set up Ghostery, I’m sure you can. The advisory box that drops down for a few seconds is very enlightening in that it lists every entity that is on that page reading your info. (Even if you decide not to keep running Ghostery, it will have been educational.) If the program has blocked an entity, its name on the list will be crossed out.

        2. P.S. Ghostery is looking a bit buggy on Chrome. The little list that drops down sometimes shows everything crossed out and sometimes not crossed out. But I’ve about decided Chrome itself is a little buggy.

          1. I installed it (on Firefox) last night. Haven’t played with it much, but the default info is quite revealing. The little “bubble” thing can be very annoying though, no matter where I have it set to pop up!

... and that's my two cents