Whenever you visit a site with a Like, Tweet or +1 button, you’re actually sharing data with Facebook, Twitter or Google. And that’s not all. There are hundreds of advertising and data collection companies that know quite a bit about your browsing habits. Luckily, no matter what your browser of choice might happen to be, there is a way to stop social networks and advertising companies from tracking your every move on the Web.
Sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google store cookies on your computer, making it possible for them to keep tabs on you on other websites, as long as there’s a button that can send information to that social network, like a Follow, Like or Tweet button, you know that your data is being shared with these sites. You don’t even have to be logged into your social network account for the data transfer to happen.
One of the few reasons you might want to share your data with these companies is to receive suggestions on which tweeps to follow, which pages to like, and so on. Of course, that doesn’t seem like justification enough to many, and rightfully so. Instead of letting these sites collect your data, anonymized as it may be, there are several ways you can block them from accessing your content. The following extensions, presented in no particular order, can give you back a little bit of your well deserved privacy.
Do Not Track Plus (DNT+) is one of the most efficient methods of blocking Facebook and advertisers from tracking you online. Available as a browser extension for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer for Mac and PC users, DNT+ sits unobtrusively in your browser and lets you know exactly how many third parties have been blocked from accessing your data.
After you’ve installed DNT+ in your browser, whenever you visit a site, the icon in your browser bar will let you know how how many social networks, ad networks and companies have been blocked. By expanding each section, you can see exactly which of these companies have been blocked. For example, when visiting CNN.com, you can use DNT+ to automatically block Facebook, Nielsen and more. DNT+ also gives you the option to disable the service on any given site, if you so choose.
DNT+ promises to remain free, and currently claims to be blocking over 600 trackers, and automatically updates to catch new trackers. So if your main concern is blocking social networks and advertisers, DNT+ is a great way of doing just that.
Disconnect is a great option if you want to block just one specific social network. It comes with individual extensions to stop Facebook, Twitter or Google from tracking you around the web, while also giving you the option to download one extension for all three. Available for Firefox, Chrome and Safari, the extension will let you know if Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google and Yahoo are tracking you on any given site, and will stop them from storing a cookie on your computer.
Firefox users can use Mozilla’s own Lightbeam. The extension will let you know which ad networks are tracking you through this site, and maps out the sites that are accessing your data in an interesting visual way. Collusion is very useful for those who really want to understand how your data is being used, and to view connections and commonalities between all the different sites they visit.
Available for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera and Internet Explorer, Ghostery is a great option for those of you who are looking for a bit of additional information beyond just who or what you’re blocking.
Like Disconnect and DNT+, the extension sits unobtrusively in your browser bar and will let you know how many companies have been blocked when you’re visiting any given page. In addition to letting you know which companies have been blocked, by clicking on any of the links, you can launch a Ghostery page which tells you a little bit more about the company. You can find out what kind of data they collect, how they share that data, and how long they keep it.
Ghostery is an excellent option for those of you who are looking to have more control over who you share your data with and how, and like DNT+ allows you to selectively unblock certain sites. If you want to just simply block it all, you may not find yourself making use of these features.
If you want to stop social networks from keeping tabs on you while you’re on the go, the iPhone/iPad app, Atomic Browser Lite does the trick. Be sure, however, to enable private mode while browsing. The pro version of the app, which will only set you back $0.99 has the added advantage of blocking ads entirely from your browsing experience, using AdBlock. Dolphin, a browser available for both Android and iPhone users which we’ve reviewed in-depth, is another great option for private browsing on the go. It would also be worth keeping an eye on DNT+ since they will be offering a mobile product “in the future.”
How do you stop social networks and sites from tracking you on the Web? Let us know in the comments.
Image Credit: Franco Bouly