Top 10 ways to avoid being tracked online

1. Read the Terms of Service Agreements for sites you give your information to. Especially sites you give your financial information to. You maybe thinking:"I've been on page 5 of Freedom for 8 months, HOW am I going to find the time to read online agreements?"  ToS;DR can help. 

2. Use a search engine that doesn’t track you, like DuckDuckGo or Startpage for searches you want to keep private.  Google’s Incognito setting, Microsoft’s Do Not Track setting and other browser privacy settings are not always effective, because they typically leave the decision of whether to track you up to the website you visit.  There are no regulations requiring websites honor a “Do Not Track” request.

3. Use a browser add-on like Ghostery, Privacyfix or Do Not Track Plus to see who is tracking you on any given website.  You can use these tools to avoid being tracked altogether or to limit who can access your data.

4. Use a tool to encrypt your connection, like CyberGhost VPN or Tor (which routes your search through servers all over the globe, the way criminals in the movies route their calls to avoid having them traced).  Be sure to use one of these tools if you are accessing the Internet through a public WiFi connection at a coffee shop, for instance.  

5. Read the agreements for all mobile phone apps before you download them.  Some of them are scary!  They will track your location using your GPS and some (like Facebook) will download ALL OF THE CONTACTS IN YOUR PHONE. Can’t remember who you’ve handed your data to?  MyPermissions can help.  



6. Adjust your Facebook privacy settings so that only your friends can see your information.  You know that 6 Degress of Kevin Bacon game? That should give you an idea of how many friends your friends have and how many thousands of people can see your information (not to mention the impressive scope of Bacon's work)

7. Have different email addresses for different things, i.e. an email for work, a personal email, and an email you give to online stores.  This makes it harder for companies to flesh out a profile of you. You can also use an email cloaking device like Gliph

8. Use different passwords for different sites. A lot of sites store your password and know your email login name. You may be thinking that there is no way you will be able to remember any password more complicated than "Password," but take heart! LastPass can help you with that.     

9. Regularly clear out the cookies and caches in your computer. Many companies will track you for months if you don’t clean these out.  Cookies aren’t the only way companies track you, but it will help.  This site can be used to clean up your cache. 

10. Use a service that removes your data from data brokers, like DeleteMe, Safe Shepherd and Catalog Choice.  They usually charge a monthly fee and they won’t remove your online profile entirely, but it will help.


Gabriel Weinberg, founder of DuckDuckGo.com, contributed to this post.

About the author

Stacey Vanek Smith is a senior reporter for Marketplace, where she covers banking, consumer finance, housing and advertising.

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