A quick foolproof guide to hinder Google from tracking your internet activity

By End the Lie

After yesterday’s article on Google I received some concerned e-mails from readers who wanted to know what steps they could take to stop Google tracking so I decided to write up this brief guide.

First, why should anyone care about this if they don’t have anything to hide?

Well a lot of people don’t like the idea of a corporation keeping tabs on most of your internet activity which they can tie to your identity and sell or hand over to a governmental agency. You don’t need to be doing something wrong to enjoy your privacy.

I think of it like this: no one says “why do you have blinds on the windows of your home? Do you have something to hide?”

Since it is commonly accepted that we do not like people looking in on our private lives even when we’re just sitting around doing nothing noteworthy, the fact that most people have blinds or shades on their windows isn’t questioned.

However, it seems that the self-same concept has not been extended to the internet in a lot of peoples’ minds. This is mirrored in the calls across Europe for even less internet privacy in the wake of the Norwegian terrorist attacks.

For those, like myself, who don’t like people infringing on my right to keep my private life private in both the physical and digital realms, there are a few methods to avoid the extensive Google tracking network.

As I briefly explained in yesterday’s article, Google Analytics and Google AdWords/AdSense operate on much of the websites commonly visited. If you want to find out if your favorite website is using either of these you can use a website analysis tool like this in order to see all of the scripts the site calls back to. You can also just look at the status bar in your browser.

The reason Google Analytics is a free service is because they actually record, analyze and save all of the data you gather for them. Essentially your website is acting as a Google internet spying outpost helping the internet giant track users around the net.

I know it is hard for a lot of people to realize this and accept that all of your website visits are collated and stored in a central location but this is how Google makes such massive profits from their advertising programs.

Your activity is tracked over no less than six months, building a profile which is used to serve you advertisements.

There are a few very easy ways to keep Google from building up this profile on you and essentially profiting off of your private online browsing habits.

One is the opt-out policy that Google has that allegedly allows users to bypass the Google tracking through their advertising service.

For users running Firefox, Internet Explorer and Chrome, you can download the opt-out plugin here.

Other browsers might require something a bit different which you can check out here.

However, this opt-out policy is a complete sham to anyone remotely tech-savvy.

So if Google’s so-called opt-out policy doesn’t stop the script from being downloaded and executed, what is a privacy-minded internet surfer to do?

There are two things that can actually enhance your privacy a great deal, both of which are easy to start using and can be utilized by even the most clueless computer users.

The first is the free Mozilla Firefox plugin NoScript. This plugin turns off every JavaScript call on any webpage you visit.

This means that, unless you manually enable Google Analytics, the script will not be downloaded and executed as it would be with Google’s opt-out plugin.

This plugin also conveniently blocks many ads, clickjacking, malicious script injections, anti-XSS features etc. all without you having to do a thing.

Some people find the plugin annoying because you have to manually approve websites, however if you care about privacy and security, this tiny inconvenience is more than worth it.

The next step is to obfuscate your IP address.

You can do this through a myriad of ways but the most simple is through a virtual private network, or VPN.

This entails multiple servers in various locations through which you connect to the internet. In doing so the website’s server that you are connecting to only sees the VPN server connecting to their server. You then connect to the VPN server and download the information from there.

This gives you another layer of security and privacy in your browsing.

There are a great deal of VPN providers out there and you could even get your own server if you have the funds but it is a bit time consuming and quite costly. Companies like MegaPath offer both VPN services and VoIP services to keep your information private.

But the best service that I have found is the HideMyAss VPN and desktop client, due to the fact that it has servers in over 100 countries and has over 10k IP addresses you can cycle through and takes absolutely no knowledge whatsoever to use.

There are many other additional layers of security you can utilize. You could connect to a proxy server through a VPN, giving you two levels of IP obfuscation. You can download desktop programs to scan your computer for tracking cookies. You can spoof your MAC address and so much more, however I believe the above two solutions are the quickest and easiest way to make your internet browsing a much more secure and private experience.

Note: if you purchase a HMA VPN subscription through this link, you donate a percentage of the purchase to End the Lie which significantly impacts our hosting costs. We would greatly appreciate if you could simply click through our link if you’d like to purchase it as you would be essentially donating to us without spending an extra cent. For your reference and for the sake of transparency, you can see how much we would get from your purchase by clicking here.

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Did I miss anything? Would you like to send me your own writing or tip me off to a story? Email me at [email protected]

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16 Responses to A quick foolproof guide to hinder Google from tracking your internet activity

  1. Anonymous July 31, 2011 at 11:47 PM

    good guide. didnt knows about noscript thank you

    Reply
  2. Web Design August 3, 2011 at 1:14 AM

    The first is the free Mozilla Firefox plugin NoScript. This plugin turns off every JavaScript call on any webpage you visit

    Reply
  3. Keapon Laffin August 20, 2011 at 3:37 PM

    NoScript is a must. I also like the FireFox plugin TrackMeNot. It sends random searches, so you can at least ‘spoof’ search engines so they can’t track your ‘preferences’. I don’t VPN, so they can track my IP, but they mostly get nonsense. :)

    Reply
    • End the Lie August 20, 2011 at 10:43 PM

      Unfortunately it is not compatible with Firefox 6.0

      Reply
  4. alternative media source August 25, 2011 at 7:48 PM

    You really make it appear so easy with your presentation but I to find this topic to be really one thing that I feel I would never understand. It sort of feels too complex and extremely huge for me. I’m taking a look ahead in your subsequent post, I will attempt to get the dangle of it!

    Reply
  5. Mike S. September 11, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    Instead of using some plug-in that who knows what may be doing in the background, I only use Firefox & went into “options … privacy” & where it asks how to handle cookies I chose “Ask every time”. This is not offered in IE nor Chrome. The only cookie I allow is the ONE needed to sign into a site I NEED! By denying all the others it also keeps all the crap cookies off my computer that not only track but add up & slow down the computer!!

    Reply
  6. Melida Fincher October 13, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    I was wondering if you ever thought of changing the structure of your website? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having 1 or 2 images. Maybe you could space it out better?

    Reply
  7. Anonymous November 24, 2011 at 3:31 PM

    Very good news! Thanks.

    Reply
  8. Tom January 29, 2012 at 1:07 PM

    A nice alternative to NoScript is Ghostery. It allows you to see all the tracking beacons on a page and individually approve which ones to use.

    Reply
  9. Epiphany March 11, 2012 at 11:45 PM

    I just downloaded Ghostery today (3/11/2012) just to see how much tracking was going on. I had pages with 17 tracking sites, many with just 10. I thought maybe 1 or 2, but WOW!!! Little ghost-shaped icon in the bottom right corner of a page tells you exactly how many are tracking, you can click to see and select exactly which ones to have stopped. And you can even click on a link to Ghostery’s site that will tell you who they are and what they do so you can be better informed when you choose. This page had 10 companies. Now it has 7 because three I didn’t mind so much.

    Reply
    • End the Lie March 11, 2012 at 11:48 PM

      Our page varies greatly from visit to visit due to the ads we have. There are three ad spots and all three could have three different ads from three different companies. All three of those could have multiple different tracking methods. However, we don’t use Google Analytics or Google AdWords. I would recommend that you download NoScript as well. Currently I’m showing 27 scripts running on this page. I wish we didn’t have to run these ad networks, honestly. I’d much rather sell directly to advertisers so we know exactly what they’re up to with the tracking. Unfortunately there aren’t enough advertisers I’ve come across as of yet and we do have to pay the hosting bills!

      Reply
      • Anonymous June 15, 2013 at 10:39 AM

        Snake bites tail…

        Reply
        • Anonymous August 18, 2013 at 9:51 AM

          are you sending them donations? No? then shut up you have no right to speak

          Reply
    • Anonymous August 18, 2013 at 9:52 AM

      unless you’re paying them with donations so they can remove them and not rely on 3rd party ads you really have no right to complain Epiphany

      Reply
  10. EJSylmar October 11, 2012 at 4:57 PM

    I wanted to thank you for this information and your transparency in the tracking originated from your pages. It also answered another question that has been bugging me for a while – why do sites proposing one viewpoint often has conflicting ads. Bundling ‘Ad spaces’ out to a service would explain it.

    I just found our site and find the content informative and helpful. Personally I prefer concise/useful/true content over graphic content – I don’t come to the internet to look at pretty pictures, I want substance. The well designed info-graphic is helpful. I think the web design and style are elegant.

    Any thinking on the tracking issue on MACs and Safari?

    Thanks

    EJ

    Reply
  11. Nora October 23, 2012 at 8:16 AM

    I agree…your site is the bomb! Don’t change a thing, and keep the articles coming. I’ve been using NoScript for a few months, and doing regular Norton purges of tracking crappies. This old computer consistently works now, whereas it used to hang all the time while those little crappies sent my personal info all over the place. Thanks, buddy.

    Reply

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