I’m fairly convinced the internet has become a cesspool of advertising and coercive content meant solely to influence people. Marketing feels less about raising awareness of useful products, services and events and more about convincing a predetermined mark to take an action or believe something.
It’s a race to the bottom, with marketers shamelessly using more and more motion, pop-ups, red text and capital letters. Ad tracking on many websites has become so intrusive that there’s little privacy left. Not only does the website you’re on know what you’re viewing and how long you’re spending there, but myriad other services are also watching everything you do.
This tracking creates the ability for an uncanny amount of precision, with marketers being able to target lists of specific users. On social media, politicians can run up the score, putting their posts only in front of those they know are sympathetic to their causes without risking dissent from anyone who may not be supportive. Those marks who then see the ad see nothing but confirmation in the comments.
I’ve had enough, and you should have, too. There are ways we can protect our privacy and security and, by doing so, our sanity. For the foreseeable future, I’ll make an effort to document here all the tools and services I use to protect myself from tracking in hopes that these resources can help others. For now, let’s talk about the categories of tools that exist to anonymize browsing, prevent tracking and secure ourselves from internet malware.
The easiest tool to implement, browser add-ons exist for all modern browsers. These extensions can change the way our browsers interact with websites, warn us when tracking is occurring and filter out content that is dangerous or obnoxious. Currently, my favorite extensions are UBlock Origin, Privacy Badger, Facebook Container and Trocker. Also, you should switch to Firefox as Chrome is planning future changes that make these extensions less useful.
I’ve written at length about VPNs. Everyone should already use them for security when using insecure wireless networks. However, there’s an increasing case to be made for always using them to prevent your internet service provider from monitoring your browsing and selling that browsing data to third parties. This need varies depending on your ISP.
This is the most exciting and underutilized area for reducing advertising and increasing security. I’ve written about DNS in the past and it was a big part of Auction Podcast episode 8 over 10 years ago. Simply by using different DNS servers, or by running your own, you can eliminate most ads and tracking on your entire network and even on your mobile phone when away from home.
I admit, I used to get excited about finding new and better ways to target users for the marketing I was pushing. However, as a consumer being exposed to the marketing of others I understand how pernicious and invasive marketing has become. Until more services offer to allow users to pay for an ad free experience, they shouldn’t be surprised when more and more of us block more and more ads and trackers