Stop the Curiosity Network! Ten tips against tracking

That’s tracking

The German translation “Persecution” hits it exactly to the point. Not only the big data traps like Google or Facebook track their users across the web. Spying has become standard on most sites. According to a study by Ghostery, which offers privacy software, 79 percent of Internet sites worldwide track their users’ data across multiple websites. So they record which pages their visitors have been to, what they are interested in, what hardware they use, where they continue to surf after the visit – and much more.

According to Apple, “tests show that some popular websites use up to 70 trackers.” How big the spider web is that the site operators have ejected, shows additional software such as the Firefox add-on Lightbeam. It graphically depicts all links that websites make to the outside, including tracking. After visiting a few pages, huge networks emerge – with the visitor right in the middle.


Light Beam
Visited only six pages – and already the user has left his mark on countless servers in the network (Photo: Lightbeam)

This is how tracking works

Basically, there are three methods of monitoring – cookies, pixel images and so-called fingerprints.

  • Cookies (“crumbs”) are the well-known small text files into which site operators write information that they can recall later – and by which they identify their visitors. In this way, for example, Amazon can display a homepage that is tailored to the interests and recent purchases of a customer.
  • Pixel images, the so-called beacons, are tiny image files that are invisible but still accessible by the browser. They also tell site operators who accessed which content.
  • Fingerprinting is the most complex and sophisticated method. Here, the visitor’s digital fingerprint is taken as it were – his computer, his screen, his software, his browser, his apps, his installed fonts and much more.

In combination, this information is so different that the exact same device is virtually unique worldwide.

That’s how dangerous tracking is

Even Internet users who value privacy and do not use social media such as Facebook or Instagram at all, or only reluctantly, unknowingly reveal their entire online behavior – and with it, a wealth of information about themselves and their lives. Your data is usually sold for promotional purposes. But you can also land with insurance companies, health insurance companies or companies that decide on lending – with all the negative consequences.

Users lose control of the data circulating through them on the Internet. They may be tempted by tailor-made advertising to purchases that they did not want to do. And with widespread data theft, data can fall into the hands of criminals and be misused for blackmail, for example. On the flip side: Of course, website operators are also able to tailor their offers even better to the interests of the users.

10 tips against tracking

The right browser

Firefox Clear – the new version for more privacy on the smartphone (Photo: Mozilla)

In manufacturer-independent Firefox and in Apple’s Safari, which also exists for the PC, are now built numerous measures against tracking. The latest version of Firefox 63 categorically blocks trackers that slow down the loading of pages. In the announced for 2019 Firefox 65 is the tracking over several websites away then completely prevented.

It’s worthwhile to surf with a browser that better protects your own data – even on the smartphone, for which the Firefox is also available in the privacy-optimized version “Firefox clear” for iOS and Android. It’s not only worth it in terms of data protection. Because tracking makes websites on average a quarter slower and charged the battery. However, 42 percent of Internet users in Germany still use Google’s Chrome browser – which naturally has no interest in reducing tracking.


Use browser plugins

There are numerous browser extensions (“plugins”) that prevent tracking. These include, for example, DoNotTrackMe for Firefox or Ghostery, which works with all major browsers. Ghostery is also available as a stand-alone browser for iOS and Android.

Set the browser correctly

Even Google’s Chrome browser offers, well hidden, some important privacy settings (Photo: Google)

Any browser, whether desktop or mobile, offers privacy settings – which are often not enabled by default by manufacturers. It is worth tightening the settings in the menu for his own benefit. Even Google hides such options in the Chrome browser under “Advanced”. This includes that when calling pages, the request “Please do not track” is sent.

This multi-vendor option is available in most browsers, but the operators are not yet obliged to comply with the request. Many sites such as Twitter and Pinterest stick to it.


Open a private browser window

The use of the “incognito window” (Chrome) or the “private window” (Firefox, Safari) does not prevent tracking completely, but at least provides a little more privacy. For example, new cookies are immediately deleted after closing the window, other data is not even transferred. Surfing in this mode is therefore at least a small, simple step towards more privacy.

Use multiple browsers

If you want to prevent the big data collectors like Facebook and Google from getting too much information on your own internet usage, you should use several different browsers both on the mobile and at the desk. So for example Firefox for Google and social networks, and Safari for the rest of the Internet. Especially for Android users Opera Touch is a fast, secure and excellent alternative to the standard browser Chrome.

Change settings on the pages

Google’s search landed at Stiftung Warentest only in second place (Photo: Google)

Both Facebook and Google offer numerous options to better protect your privacy and to reduce the display of personalized advertising. It is worthwhile (just like on many other websites) to take the time to tighten up the rules. From now on, Google will even be able to restrict data gathering directly under its search mask with the “Determine how Google search works for you” link.


Anyone who surfs via a VPN, that is via a virtual private network, disguises their identity, for example the current location of their computer or their smartphone. This gives providers much less information. VPN programs and apps like Cyberghost or ExpressVPN are available for all platforms from iOS to Android, PC to Mac.

Some apps are free, but such servers can only be operated reliably with a paid subscription, which usually costs between five and ten euros per month. Users should use the VPN apps of known companies, and avoid unknown free providers. Because theoretically now the operator of the VPN server can access the data, so he should be trustworthy.


Change DNS server

To translate the IP numbers of Internet servers into URL addresses, the Domain Name System (DNS) is used. This happens in the background and is not noticed by the user. It is possible to replace the default name server of its provider by another name server – for example, by the new free non-profit network Quad9, which promises “security and privacy in a few steps”. Even surfing with Quad9 is not a comprehensive security solution – but another building block on the way to more privacy.

Use a walkthrough

Disconnect is a complete privacy solution for mobile devices and the desktop (Photo: Disconnect)

The New York Times has chosen Disconnect 2016, 2017 and 2018 to be the best privacy tool. With tools against tracking, encryption and VPN, Disconnect is a complete security system for all mobile and desktop platforms.

The Californian operator advertises with 50 million users and the slogan “Gain your privacy, free yourself from tracking, and enjoy a faster, safer Internet”. Depending on the package booked, the use is partially free, all-round protection costs about 50 euros a year. Disconnect’s VPN solution is designed to load pages up to 44 percent faster and consume up to 39 percent less data.


Use secure search engines

Search engines, in which users reveal practically everything that occupies them, are ideal tools for operators to collect data. The best alternatives to overpowering Google search are DuckDuckGo and SearchEncrypt. Although both search engines display advertisements that match the search term, they do not collect the data of their users.

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The LEAD issue 3/2018 takes you into the world of photography. What role they and their digital re-use play today and what opportunities there are, you will learn in 3 exciting stories in the magazine. But topics such as e-sports, artificial intelligence and marketing technologies are also part of the current issue.

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