Fight Back At Marketers By Surfing Anonymously

Marketers just love to gather information about who is surfing the web and why. They’re not above tracking a user’s web history to learn about their interests and buying habits, but they can only do it if you let them.

If you’d like to fight back you can learn to surf anonymously. It’s easy and fun! From Computerworld:

Whenever you surf the Web, you leave yourself open to being snooped upon by Web sites. They can track your online travels, know what operating system and browser you’re running, find out your machine name, uncover the last sites you’ve visited, examine your history list, delve into your cache, examine your IP address and use that to learn basic information about you such as your geographic location and more. To a great extent, your Internet life is an open book when you visit.

Oh no! What should you do? First, download Firefox. This will make the process easier. Then, you can download free software to hide your identity on the internet. Finally, install the Torbutton for Firefox to seal the deal.

For more information about how and why this works, check out the Computerworld article. To find out what people can tell about you just by visiting their site, check out BrowserSpy. —MEGHANN MARCO

How to surf anonymously without a trace [Computerworld via Hackzine]

Comments

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  1. viriiman says:

    Don’t forget that tor also has a portable version of Firefox + Tor to run off of a pen drive.

    Convenient when having to surf in a public place. Not only does your history come with you, but your surfing is protected.

  2. Angiol says:

    Also, Firefox has an extension called Stealther that will block pretty much anything from being recorded: cookies, referrers, etc. Very useful.

  3. NeoteriX says:

    Ironically, the same customer targeting “snooping” is the same technology that helps to sponsor our favorite site, Consumerist, and our other favored blogs that use things like Google Ads to help get funding.

  4. kerry says:

    Doesn’t work from behind my job’s corporate proxy. Sad.

  5. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    I just use the Adblock extension to hide annoying ads. And I modify my hosts file to block out known marketing sites and trackers.

  6. Trai_Dep says:

    Tor is highly recommended, although it can slow down your browsing. It works for other browsers, too. And be sure to also host a Tor thingie (the more hosts, the quicker it is for everyone else’s browsing).

    You can also find Tor on the EFF’s site (www.eff.org). Which is one of the better vouchers for a privacy-related app that I can imagine.

    DON’T use it for Bittorrent type things. It’s not designed for ultra high bandwidth hogs like that. :D

  7. Xkeeper says:

    The more I see people saying “DOWNLOAD FIREFOX, LOL!” the more I want to punch them.

    Past that, who cares? As long as the advertising isn’t IN YOUR FACE FLASHING HOLY CRAP WOOOO / popping up / playing music, it isn’t annoying. Just use your content-blocker of choice (Opera’s built-in one works wonders) and get on with your life.

    Slowing down your browsing and wasting many other’s bandwidth just because you don’t want Google to know you view page X is silly…

    …not to mention blocking ads and referrers entirely can really, really hurt some sites. If we blocked all advertising on Consumerist, I’m guessing they wouldn’t last too long, would they?

    And referrer tags help webmasters determine where most of their visitors are coming from, so they can prepare or give them some interesting content. After all, Consumerist does occasionally run “Welcome, XXXXXXXXX readers!” segments, which if they weren’t for the fact they’re signed in advance (the Times, for example) they’d have no clue if referers were blocked.

    Save anonymous browsing for things that actually require anonyminity.

  8. mopar_man says:

    Tor is highly recommended, although it can slow down your browsing.

    If that ain’t the truth. I just downloaded this and gave it a whirl. I could surf faster on a dial-up connection.

  9. Falconfire says:

    Just use Tor on those sites you want to be blocked on (you know like your porn ;-))

  10. The more I see people saying “DOWNLOAD FIREFOX, LOL!” the more I want to punch them.

    Thank you XKeeper. I dont have anything against FireFox. Although I do see that attitude running rampant these days. Blindly installing or downloading a program just because somebody said “DOWNLOADZ XXXXXX, LOL!!111!”

    When presenting an audience with an alternative I prefer to offer one or two choices that oppose the mainstream. This way I can be a bit more partison with the information I am sharing and the source of information can be trusted more if I feel like I have a choice rather than have only one alternative presented to me.

  11. weave says:

    Tor is horribly slow.

  12. Rascalnikov says:

    That Computerworld article was incredibly misleading and just a poor example of consumer-friendly journalism. It makes no distinction between spyware (that is often surreptitiously downloaded on your PC without your knowledge) and “tracking” that is done on sites that you voluntarily visit. Online retailers and content providers (e.g., magazines) track your web usage so that they can improve the customer experience. The invisible tracking that they do serves many purposes from letting them know how much traffic a partner site may be sending them so that they can pay them the appropriate affiliate fees–it tells them if the content that they are showing users on the homepage is useful so that they can present the most-desired content to cusomers without having them click around the site waiting for pages to download. It also tells them if there’s a problem on the site like a broken link or process that is frustrating to users. Legitimate websites track your usage so that they can make you a more profitable customer. Is there something wrong with being shown advertisements for products that you are probably interested in buying instead of something that is totally irrelevant to your life? You may think that they’re collecting a lot of information, but the truth is that they are not saving it and they are not looking at it at an individual level. It is illegal to connect your behavior with personally identifiable information. They may know that 80% of their customers use Internet Explorer 7, but they have no idea that John Smith in San Jose is using IE7 and they don’t care. They only look at the behavior of people in very large groups. Lastly, you should know that legitimate tracking tools on reputable websites do not have the ability to read your history or your cache or the sites you’ve visited. They may know of the site that linked you from somewhere but that’s a far cry from what that fear-inciting article in Computerworld described. I’ve been analyzing visitor behavior (in very large, ANONYMOUS groups) for almost 10 years. Do not believe the nonsense about how you’re being spied on by corporations. It’s a lie. That doesn’t mean that spyware is not a legitimate threat to privacy, but a distinction between malicious software and marketing tracking needs to be made.

  13. Mr. Gunn says:

    Seconding those who are saying Tor is teh slow0rz. If there ever came a time large numbers of people depended on it, it would fail them.

  14. micturatedupon says:

    i have to give credit where credit is due, yes, firefox served a great purpose in bringing attention to the fact that there are alternatives to microshaft’s slow buggy mess that is IE…

    but –

    firefox isnt much better. sure, its more secure, but this was more due to its relative obscurity, not by design. as it’s grown in popularity, bugs/exploits are starting to show, and really, your back in the same spot you were with IE.


    bottom line: use opera.