Over the last couple of years I’ve started using a number of tools to guard my privacy when I use the web. There are many applications and plugins available that block all sorts of unwanted tracking. I prefer those that give me insight into how much is blocked, while remaining easy to use. Here are my favorites.
If you’re not familiar with things like networks and DNS, setting up “a Pi-hole” might seem a little complicated. But it’s well worth the effort.
Pi-hole is a DNS proxy. This means it sits between you and the internet’s phonebook (DNS). Pi-hole checks any “phonebook lookups” made on your network against a list of known advertising/tracking domains. If the address is on that list, the request is blocked.
Pi-hole operates on the network level, which means it protects all devices connected to your home network. It provides a nice dashboard too. For my home, it blocks a staggering 45% of all requests. That’s thousands of little pieces of tracking info every day.
The easiest way to set up a Pi-hole is probably to hook up a Raspberry Pi to your router. Any model will do, but a wired network connection is recommended. There are many great tutorials out there detailing the hardware and software installation.
When I’m not at home, and not protected by the Pi-hole, I use Privacy Badger. This is a simple browser add-on that intelligently blocks tracking cookies. It’s very easy to set up and use. It blocks some ads, but its main purpose is to catch cookies.
Ad blockers and other privacy tools are easy enough to set up on desktops and laptops, but things are different on your phone. Fortunately, Android lets you install 3rd party browsers, and set them as the default browser.
Firefox Focus is a very simple, lightweight and easy browser, that was specifically designed to clean up after itself. I have it set up as my default browser, so when I follow a link from Twitter, that page is opened in Firefox Focus. When I’m done reading and press the back button, Focus not only closes, but also erases all cookies and other traces.
One of the easiest thing to change is your browsers default search engine. Google may have the best search engine on the web, it’s also a tracking nightmare. DuckDuckGo isn’t, and provides pretty good search results. It’s the default search engine in every browser I use, both on desktop and mobile.
These are my favorite privacy tools. I use a couple more (like an ad blocker), but these strike a good balance between simplicity and protection. Do you know any other good ones? Please post them in the comments!