The internet is a big place. Ok, that’s a huge understatement – the internet is omnipresent. Every time we log into social media, our email app, or a ZOOM call, we merge onto a vast million lane digital highway. We brave wrong turns, misleading signs and pirates because we know that all the information known to man is can be found there. All it takes is a click of a button and a computer and we are travelling through time and space.
Along the voyage are many companies who want to distract us, or worse, hijack our trip altogether. They use information gained from their “bots” to find out where we’ve been and where we’re likely to go. While some of them are unavoidable, many can be stopped in their tracks with the help of some good software and a few key tools.
The first step in controlling this flood of ads is to get an AdBlocker.
These are handy extensions that live in your browser, or in your phone. While the specific adblocker you use is ultimately a personal choice, I recommend uBlock Origin (open source) on desktop, and Firefox Focus on mobile. Firefox conveniently adds a content blocker that can be turned on in safari as well. Not only will blocking ads make you less agitated, but it will also improve your phone’s battery life. Bonus!
The other half of online advertising is tracking your browsing.
To block this, I use a browser extension provided by the Electronic Frontier Foundation: Privacy Badger (open source). This tool blocks the most common forms of tracking, cookies and device fingerprinting techniques which are meant to build an advertising profile based on your behaviour.
There is also a setting in Chrome called Do not track, which is certainly worth turning on, but this toggle is the equivalent of kindly asking for websites not to track you… So, I wouldn’t expect this to dissuade much of anyone.
Lastly, always remember the elephant in the room, Google provides most of its services for free because it is the single largest online advertiser of them all. It can be impossible to completely avoid Google, but you may consider using more privacy-centric alternatives such as DuckDuckGo or better yet: Ecosia.org , who use part of the revenue generated from search engine ads to plant trees. A worthy search engine alternative if ever there was one.