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So you’re probably aware that you’re being tracked online. In fact,
unless you’ve intentionally turned it off, Google is tracking the fact that you’re
watching this video, how long you’ve watched it for, and what you decide to watch next.
In today’s short video, I want to explain the important difference between the
invisible trackers and so-called cookies that follow us all around the internet,
and then give you a couple practical tips - completely free - to hide yourself.
Welcome to All Things Secured, my name is Josh and I’m not going to try to play
innocent here. If you visit our website at AllThingsSecured.com, you’ll find that I
do, in fact, have a tracker that goes by the name Google Analytics. Like most websites nowadays, we
use Google Analytics to help understand the aggregate audience that is visiting the website,
but we’ve decided against using something like the Facebook pixel.
Now before we talk about what this means for you,
I want to help you understand the difference between a tracker and a cookie.
A cookie is like name tag that a website puts on you anytime you visit. It’s a small data file that
sits on your computer and serves as an identifier. When the website sees that particular name tag,
which only has meaning to that particular domain,
they can greet you by name and remember who you are. That is a cookie.
A tracker, on the other hand, is code on the website itself
that assesses you and sends that information elsewhere. The very act of visiting the website
triggers the tracker to collect and send any data it can find on you. So instead of a name tag, you
can think of it almost like an automated scanner that passively profiles you. In my mind, I see
it like an advanced security camera that has the ability to measure my temperature, take my height,
recognize that I’m a male, surmise that I’m in my 30s or 40s, and so on.
Most places on the internet use a combination of both cookies and trackers,
and that’s not always a bad thing. Cookies are what allow us to visit Amazon without having
to log in every single time. Amazon sees your unique name tag that they put on you last time,
aka the cookie, and therefore don’t make you retype your email and password. It’s convenient.
Unfortunately, some websites go a bit far. CNN, for example, has 31 trackers and tried to give me
7 cookies. And just so you don’t think I’m trying to throw one biased news source under the bus,
FoxNews had 36 trackers and 8 cookies
while the UK’s Daily Mail tried to hit me with 35 trackers and 5 cookies.
If you ever wonder why a lot of these websites load slowly,
this is many times part of the reason.
Ok, so what can you do about this? We’ve already talked about the data that is collected from
you when you do a search on Google, as well as the data they pass along to the website,
and I recommend you watch this video next if you haven’t already.
How can you hide
from the general internet? I’m going to give you two thoughts for you to consider here.
The first is to make a switch to a more privacy-focused browser like Brave. It’s
a great browser, I’m not saying it’s the best, but it offers the best privacy protections right
out of the box, meaning you don’t have to play with any settings or download anything extra.
For those of you who don’t want to migrate to a new internet browser - and trust me, I understand;
I like what I have with Firefox right now - there is one other option. You’ve actually seen me using
it in this video, and that’s the privacy extension from Startpage. It’s free to download and it works
for Firefox, Chrome and every other Chromium-based browser like Edge, Opera and many others.
There are a couple extensions like this,
but what I like about the Startpage privacy extension is that every time I visit a website,
I see an immediate privacy score, from 1 to 5 with 1 being terrible and 5 being great.
By clicking on this, I can see how many trackers and cookies the extension blocked
from that particular website. Now I’ll stop here and quickly explain that it’s pretty easy to stop
cookies from being downloaded, but when it comes to trackers, the extension can’t stop you from
being noticed as a visitor to the website. It can, however, cloak you. In other words,
you’ll still be counted in my Google Analytics, but it will be much harder,
if not impossible, to gather the data that allows big data companies to fingerprint you.
What’s cool about the Startpage extension that other extensions I’ve tried don’t do
is that I can go through and individually allow certain cookies if need be. In some cases,
a website just won’t work properly without cookies, so you need to be able to allow
what they need without giving them blanket permission to upload anything they want.
Finally, the extension gives you the ability to do an anonymous search with Startpage, which uses
Google results without all the tracking. This is useful if you prefer using another
search engine as your default but still want the option to search anonymously in certain cases.
If you want to give either Brave or the Startpage extension a try, I’ll have direct links in the
comments below. And once you’re done doing that, watch this video where I explain 9 other secrets
to being invisible online. I promise you’ll learn something new that you didn’t know before.