The Internet is a Harlot, Always Use Protection

February 4, 2013 at 4:52 pm 6 comments

Internet+Privacy+Issues+of+2012

First off, a little intro about myself: My name is Bob Kinsloe and I am a Computer Systems Technology major. I was also a writer for this blog last semester along with Chris, so if you get a chance, definitely read some of our previous posts!

In the IT world my main focuses are web development, programming, and web design, but I find all aspects of technology exciting as they continue to progress at a blisteringly fast pace. I currently work as a web developer/designer at a local business here in town. When I’m not in class or at work, I like to go for a run/ work out, play video games, and have a few beers.

Alright so now that we’re practically great friends, I wanted to share with you guys a few tips you can use to help maintain your privacy on the web!

“But Bob, I’m just an average person who doesn’t do anything on the web besides Facebook stalk, watch YouTube, and make impulse buys on Amazon.”

This may be so, but the things invading your privacy on the web are indiscriminate and everywhere. Almost every site you visit on the web uses things called cookies, tiny files placed on your computer to track certain information about your browsing activity. Cookies by themselves aren’t harmful to you; in fact they are very important to the functionality of many websites.

However, often times they are used to track your activity for the sole, nefarious purpose of squeezing every nickel and dime out of you. Many major websites use these trackers to send data about your browsing habits to third party services, keeping tabs on your interests, pages you’ve visited, geographical location of your IP address, and the like.

I don’t know about you but I find that to be a bit creepy. Are most services merely collecting the information to say, simply give you a better ad experience? Or like Amazon, just recommend you relevant products? Probably. But just the mere fact that all of this data can and is being collected about you is unnerving.

There are many varying degrees of action you can take to protect yourself from the prying eyes of Big Data. Here are a few of the most simple and effective ways to set up a more private web browsing experience:

1. Use Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome as your Web Browser.

Just 6 days ago, Mozilla was named the ‘Most Trusted Internet Company For Privacy’ by an independent study. Although Google is one company that really loves to collect information about you, their Chrome browser is very modern and secure by most accounts. The two biggest things about using either one of these browsers though are the plugins available that are great at keeping prying eyes away.

2. HTTPS Everywhere

This is the one you really shouldn’t leave home without. Once you have either Firefox or Chrome, you can install the HTTPS Everywhere plugin with a couple of clicks. HTTPS is short for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. What HTTPS Everywhere does is automatically enable encryption on websites that have it. Using this protocol over the normal HTTP protects against eavesdropping on your traffic.

3. Ghostery

When you visit a website, the trackers on that site can see your activity, but you can’t see back. Ghostery lets you do that. It watches the watchmen so to speak, allowing you to see which trackers a website is using, and then gives you the option to block or allow them.

4. Disconnect

This one is really cool. Not only do sites like Facebook use trackers, they ARE trackers. Disconnect shuts the door on tracking done by sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, that occurs on other websites, without disrupting any normal usability.

5. Adblock Plus

Adblock is probably my favorite, and has the distinction of being the most downloaded Firefox add-on. As the name of it suggests, Adblock subtracts the advertisements out of a page. It is becoming incredibly more useful than just an ad blocker, and recent versions include features that overlap some of the functionality of Ghostery and Disconnect.

This is just a short list, but there are a lot of other useful, privacy-minded plugins for Firefox and Chrome out there that are worth looking into. While there is never a guarantee of 100% privacy or security with any measures you take, I believe this to be a good, quick start to helping you keep your data with you where it belongs. Feel free to leave a question or comment below and be sure to take the quiz on ReggieNet!

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Entry filed under: technology.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Connor  |  February 5, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    Thank you! Privacy has been a big concern for me and I will for sure start using these add-on’s

    Reply
  • 2. Alex  |  February 6, 2013 at 9:25 am

    I just downloaded all of these to my firefox. Is there anyway to delete the already stored files?

    Reply
    • 3. bobkinsloe  |  February 6, 2013 at 2:20 pm

      All browsers have options to delete cookies and other temporary internet files from your computer, typically under a “Settings”, “History”, or “Options” tab. In Firefox, you can do this by navigating to History > Clear Recent History…, then select the time range and options to delete.

      You can also download a free program called CCleaner (https://www.piriform.com/ccleaner) which I’d highly recommend. It can find all the temporary junk and cached files that build up on your computer over time and delete them. Getting rid of these files may even significantly speed up the performance of your computer!

      Reply
    • 4. philprof  |  February 7, 2013 at 12:33 am

      In Firefox, if you go to Tools/Clear Recent History, you will be presented with a dialog box that allows you to choose what items you want to delete from your machine. If the files you want to delete are only cookies, just check the cookies box and leave the rest unchecked, so that when you click “clear now” only your cookies will be gone. If you want to get rid of other types of files, you can check those boxes, too, but be careful not to be deleting things you might actually want to keep. Note that all your cookies will be deleted in this process; you will be starting over from scratch when you go to visit Web sites that you visited before — the site most likely won’t be able to remember that you have been there before. The only other alternative is to delete cookies on a selective one-by-one basis, but for most people that is an extremely time-consuming thing. If you happen to want to see your cookies before you delete them, go to Tools/Options/Privacy and click the “Show Cookies” button. You probably have hundreds of cookies.

      Reply
  • 5. Anonymous  |  February 10, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    I added all of these! Thank You!

    Reply
  • 6. Connor  |  February 17, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    I just thought you would appreciate to hear that my browsing experience has drastically improved ever since installing these add-ons… Thank You!!!

    Reply

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