Why look into anti-tracking options with browsers and ad blockers? Because websites aren’t as simple as they used to be. Not everything served to you is given by the web-page you are visiting.
Some of the content comes from other domains. A lot of these elements contain trackers, which collect information about your online behavior and then send it to third party companies.
This process leads to more relevant ads on your browser travels but may also lead to a slower load time and waste on your bandwidth. Some view these trackers as a violation of privacy and would rather browse more anonymously.
Maybe you are somebody who has never thought about what tracking means.
Let’s look into this a bit further.
With the script set on your browser unknowingly, third-party domains can gather all sorts of information about you as they follow you across each site you visit, maybe even the incognito ones. The third-party provider, usually the same market-leading players across all major websites, will be able to build entire user profiles based on the information they gain from tracking you.
According to a study done by Qreuz in 2020, there could be more than 20 hidden connections set on your browser when you shop online.
This guide lists all the anti-tracking options you may already have available to you through your browser, as well as what ad blockers have to offer in terms of limiting those hidden third-party connections.
Browsers and Anti-Tracking
Your first option for tackling trackers is to consider the browser that you are using. Some browsers have options to set a “no tracking” request, while others have anti-tracking software built-in to their system.
Here is a list of what five of the top browser options around the world have to offer in terms of anti-tracking.
If you use Chrome as your browser, you can change your settings to request for no tracking. However, it is voluntary for the websites you visit to actually heed this request, so chances are this setting is actually not helping at all and simply ignored by the sites you are visiting. Anyway, if you want to try it, this setting is turned off by default, so to turn it on:
- On your computer, open Chrome.
- At the top right, click “More” and then “Settings”.
- Under “Privacy and security,” click Cookies and other site data.
- Turn Send a “Do not track” request with your browsing traffic on.
Safari offers the functionality of blocking cross-site tracking, which means any third-party content providers trying to track your behavior across other websites will be blocked.
To make sure this setting is enabled on your Safari browser (Mac):
- Go to the Safari drop-down menu.
- Select “Preferences”.
- Click “Privacy” in the top panel.
- Under “Block cookies” select the option “Always”.
To disable cookies and cross-site tracking in Safari (iPhone/iPad iOS 11):
- Open “Settings”.
- Scroll down and select “Safari”.
- Under “Privacy & Security”, turn off “Prevent Cross-Site Tracking” and “Block All Cookies”.
Firefox has a “Do Not Track” feature that lets you tell every website you visit, their advertisers, and content providers that you don’t want your browsing behavior tracked. Much like Chrome’s “Do Not Track” request, honoring this setting is up to the individual websites.
If you have this setting on, it will not affect the functional cookies which allow you stay logged in or for Firefox to remember what you have added to a shopping cart, for example.
The “Do Not Track” feature is turned off by default, except in Private Windows, where it is always on by default. If you use Firefox, this is how to use the “Do Not Track” feature:
- Click the menu button and select “Options”.
- Select the “Privacy & Security” panel.
- This takes you to the “Enhanced Tracking Protection” section of your “Browser Privacy” settings.
- Under “Send websites a “Do Not Track” signal that you don’t want to be tracked”, choose “Always”.
- Close the “about: preferences” page. Any changes you’ve made will automatically be saved.
Firefox also offers an extension to block Facebook from tracking you if you visit a website with a Facebook “share” or “like” button, for example. It’s called the Facebook container if you want to check it out.
If you are operating on one of the Microsoft browsers, such as Microsoft Edge, Legacy or Chromium, you can choose from three levels of anti-tracking and tracking prevention: “Basic”, “Balanced”, and “Strict”. Balanced is selected as the default. All three options block potentially harmful trackers such as possible crypto-mining or fingerprinting. Microsoft describes the three levels of tracking security as follows:
Basic: Blocks potentially harmful trackers but allows most other trackers and those that personalize content and ads.
Balanced: Blocks potentially harmful trackers and trackers from sites you haven’t visited. Content and ads will likely be less personalized.
Strict: Blocks potentially harmful trackers and most trackers across sites. Content and ads will likely have minimal personalization. This option blocks the most trackers but could cause some websites to not behave as expected. For example, a video might not play, or you might not be able to sign in.
To select your tracking prevention level:
- In your Microsoft browser, select “Settings and more”.
- Click “Settings” and then “Privacy and services”.
- Make sure “Tracking prevention” is set to On.
- Select the level of tracking prevention that’s right for you.
If you’re a Samsung Internet browser user, you have the option of a feature called “Smart Anti-Tracking”. This is another feature which targets cross-site tracking. Samsung Internet utilizes on-device machine learning to identify third-party domains that have the capability to track users and then to deny any cookie access. This makes it hard for the third-party domains to track a user across multiple sites.
If you want to enable Smart Anti-Tracking on your Samsung browser:
- Click “Settings”.
- Then click “Privacy and Security”.
- Select “Smart anti-tracking”.
Ad Blockers and Anti-Tracking
If you are not happy with the level of tracking prevention built into our browser, you can look into using ad blocking extensions with anti tracking features also. Here we break down what the top ad blockers have to offer the private browser.
Adblock Plus is the industry leader of ad blockers, based on the US market. There, they hold 47.5% of the market. You can also use Adblock Plus to browse more anonymously by utilizing its anti-tracking feature and disabling most tracking, according to the Adblock Plus. It is available for Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera and Android.
The second most popular ad blocker, Adblock (not related to Adblock Plus), also has an anti-tracking feature, which stops third-party tracking and limits ad targeting. Adblock can provide reports to Chrome, Firefox and Edge users. This feature is called Adblock Stats.
A smaller player in the market, Ublock (1.9%), is a free and open-source, cross-platform browser extension for content-filtering, including ad-blocking. Ublock also enables users to limit the amount of hidden trackers when they browse.The extension is available for Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Opera, and Safari (prior to 13).
Adguard, which holds 1.4% of the U.S. market share also has a large number of filters. The extension blocks web trackers, advertising, and other data collecting tools. It is compatible with Microsoft Windows, Linux, OS X, Android and iOS.
With just 0.02% of the U.S. ad blocker market, Ghostery is the smallest name in this list, but what does it offer?
Ghostery allows you to block ads as well as block and view the amount of trackers on any given website as you land on them.
There are a lot of reasons why you might want to use anti-tracker features or software on your browsers. They protect a user’s privacy and block those ads that some don’t enjoy. Even though we have listed some options for you to consider, there are plenty of other extensions as well. Simply decide which options work the best for you.
What do you think about tracking and ads? Would you rather see more relevant ads than have a private browsing experience without unknown connections?
Leave your thoughts below! I would love to hear from you.