But this is bad and I don’t want this?
Although options are limited and sometimes frustrating, there are some things you can do. To combat ad retargeting, an ad blocker works quite well. It’s awfully tough to be taken in by deceptive or fraudulent, or just too intrusive advertising if you can’t see it. However, many of the most reputable news sites rely on advertising for revenue, so they ask users to disable ad blockers in order to access content. This doesn’t really address the issue of shadowy third parties doing untoward things with your data, which brings us to…
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)
Here be dragons, though, because many VPN A VPN (also known as a proxy) is an app or connection method that keeps your internet connection private, whether you're connecting to unsafe public Wi-Fi or your network at home. Having a layer of security that blocks people from watching you browse helps keep you safe online, no matter where you connect from.
Virtual private networks protect you by creating an encrypted "tunnel" that all of your device's data travels through on its way to the internet via a proxy server or service. Encryption turns words and data, like text files, into a secret code. If someone tries to read encrypted data without the password, they'll see random gibberish. providers are no more trustworthy than the ISPs that we all love so dearly. If you go to a VPN review site you can see the latest VPNs and how they stack up on quality criteria, which generally include, but are not limited to:
Do they keep logs of your activity?
How much identifiable data do they keep on you?
Do they have physical control over their own VPN servers?
What countries are their servers located in?
Check out some reviews of popular VPNs based on answers to these questions here. Another question that you should be asking is how much a VPN costs. Free ones generally find some unsavory ways to monetize your traffic, which is what you’re trying to avoid to begin with.
This is a browser extension published by the Electronic Freedom Foundation. It forces websites to use a more secure HTTPS connection when the website supports it. Encrypting traffic in this way does not protect the specific websites you visit from your ISP, but it does obfuscate specific content that you’re accessing on that page. And as a browser extension, it’s fairly easy to install, and probably falls under the category of things you should be doing anyway. If you want to find out more about HTTPS Everywhere, check out their FAQ here.
Calling your congressman
Privacy is a developing issue. As technology advances, its ability to infringe on our privacy in irritating and sometimes dangerous ways can increase. Letting your representatives know that this is a concern can help prevent worse legislation in the future. If you’d like to make your opinion on online privacy known, you can find your representatives here and here.
In conclusion, strong online privacy can sometimes be an inconvenience for those of us trying to catch cybercriminals. But its loss hurts all of us. Whether you have ‘something to hide’ or not, your data and your identity belong to you. Why shouldn’t you control how it’s used?