Change These 15 Default Settings To Increase Your Internet Privacy

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Padlock over dataFrom Facebook to Amazon, here are 15 default settings you can change to provide a little more privacy on the internet.

Larger internet corporations collect a lot of data on individuals. Changing just a few default settings can help stem the tide. This article covers how to change the default changes in Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple. These changes aren't hard to make and can help curb some of the data that these companies gather.

I've also rounded up a list of privacy focused apps and browser add-ons that can provide additional protection from tracking, block malware, and remove ads. (Gizmo's Freeware is run by volunteers and relies on ads to pay the bills and keep the lights on. You can help out by adding us to your whitelist)

Hands off my data! 15 default privacy settings you should change right now


Browser Add-ons/Extensions:
Here's a brief list of add-ons (in no particular order) that work on Firefox and Chrome based browsers, though some also work with Safari and several have mobile apps. Note the list is current now but the update cycles on browsers are frequent so they may change. If you use Opera, and want to use extensions from the Chrome Web Store, here's how to install Chrome extensions in Opera.

HTTPS Everywhere
Provided the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) HTTPS Everywhere encrypts your communications with many major websites. It rewrites requests to websites to HTTPS, making browsing more secure.

uBlock Origin
UBlock Origin is a wide-spectrum blocker. It blocks ads and tracking mechanisms from malware sites. It also does a good job of keeping up with and blocking sites that deploy bitcoin mining. It's also one of the few extensions that work on Microsoft's Edge browser. Direct links to the browser extension are here because uBlock Origin is hosted on Github and a little hard to figure out how to install:
Firefox based browsers
Chrome based browsers
Microsoft Edge browser

Disconnect
Encrypts all of your Internet traffic, masks your IP address, prevents wireless eavesdropping, blocks over 5000 invisible trackers and sources of malware, inside both browsers and apps, and allows you to search anonymously on Google, Bing, and Yahoo, and more

Ghostery
Gives you control over ads and tracking technologies to speed up page loads, eliminate clutter, and protect your data. Similar to uBlock Origin.

Social Disconnect Plus
Social Disconnect Plus removes all social media contents on web-pages (i.e. the Facebook like button and other widgets) that are used to track your movements across the internet.
 

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Comments

You may also want to include uMatrix in that list. I primarily use it on chrome.

On most of my browsers I have Ghostery, AdBlock Plus or Ad Guard, HTTPS Everywhere and Cookie AutoDelete or Self-Destructing Cookies. Am now looking into the VPN options. However, the most I can do is cut down on trackers as they attach themselves like leeches, only more difficult to get off/away from. Every once in a great while I get something from cryptocurrency mining, but sonce I got the Cookies AutoDelete they seem to have disappeared...hopefully forever.

Ghostery has been great, especially since I can allow trackers site by site, stopping them on the rest. Ghostery tells you how many trackers are attaching themselves and who they are from. You can choose to not allow them across the board or to allow some for an individual site, but blocking all other sites. I do surveys and they love to track you, but will not allow you to do the surveys unless you allow their cookies. Thus the Cookie AutoDelete. That kicks in after I'm done with the surveys and I don't have to worry about the plethora of cookies following me.

Between surveys and petitions I have to allow some tracking...but nobody says the cookies have to stay after I leave the sites. I think the combo I have is doing a great job and the last step for me will be choosing the right VPN.

What is your impression of the relative utility of Privacy Badger from the Electronic Frontier Foundation versus your current configuration. Seems to be a useful tool from a reliable known source. Nothing fancy or complicated, but that seems a plus to me and I use a VPN as a matter of course. Disconnect / Ghostery seem more complicated than required to do a basic job and Trace could be a winner once the bugs are fixed.

I like Privacy Badger, and with the EFF behind the add-on, it's a good tool. It's very easy to use.

I don't usually use it because it's primary focus is blocking trackers that don't respect the Do Not Track setting. It blocks most ads, though not as many as Disconnect or uBlock Origin. It's blocking is based on algorithms and behavior. It doesn't block bitcoin mining as far as I can tell. Add-ons like uBlock Origin make use of various lists that blacklist sites to block ads, stop tracking, and block bitcoin mining along with other methods to function. Privacy Badger doesn't encrypt your traffic as far as I can tell, which isn't an issue for you since you use a VPN.
 
It's not as aggressive (or as configurable) as uBlock and Ghostery. The EFF is not quite comfortable with the business models of Disconnect, Ghostery etc. (and indeed Ghostery did have an issue with sharing information which has since been resolved).
I'm fine with Disconnect's business model, having watched them since they released the first version some years ago.
uBlock Origin is open source and the developer refuses donations, making an ad based or financial gain model unlikely.

If you want something that is unobtrusive, easy to use (set it and forget it) blocks tracking, but doesn't necessarily block all ads, doesn't block sites bitcoin mining and doesn't encrypt your internet traffic, it's a good tool.

As usual, it comes down to preferences and wants - how a program or app fits with how you work and what you want it to do.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Thank you for such an invaluable and essential privacy utility collection !
A few questions Im sure a lot of people are asking
- should we install several of these browser addons, in other words is more better, or is one sufficient ?
(I have installed both 'Disconnect' and 'Ghostery')
- is there any disadvantage in installing more than one (for example, slowing down internet browsing) ?
- do these addons consistently speed up browser viewing, or is the overall effect negligible ?

For more advanced users, when installing these browser addons, often the installation process doesnt allow you to see the actual plugin file (.xpi)
- I used Firefox, installed the addon, then used Everything or Swiftsearch, searching for "*.xpi"
- this allowed me to find the actual plug in file, which I then copied and saved in case I need a backup of that plugin

I wouldn't install Disconnect and Ghostery at the same time, they have similar functionality. It could cause some page loading or page functioning problems. I would use one or the other. I prefer Disconnect over Ghostery because over the years I've had trouble with Ghostery with page loading and function, but both are good. Most people have no trouble with  Ghostery, it could be due to other add-ons. Sometimes add-ons interfere with each other.
I would install HTTPS Everywhere.

I have HTTPS Everywhere, Disconnect, uBlock Origin and Social Disconnect Plus on my browsers.

Trace is also good but still in beta - still some hiccups. Good for those of us who like messing with new things and don't mind things not working perfectly out of the box.

Overall I haven't noticed any slowdown in browsing speed. Page load times are faster for me with ad blocking and tracking add-ons. I use a browser with no add-ons to view pages I'm thinking of writing up, and there's a quite noticeable difference in load times on the ads blocked verses the no ads blocked pages. There are some sites I won't write up because the advertising is so intrusive and eats so much bandwidth, especially ones with animated ads.
A little more here on that: Why Are People Using Ad Blockers? Ads Can Eat Up To 79% Of Mobile Data Allotments | Techdirt
The data is old but gives you an idea of how much internet bandwidth advertising uses up. On slow connections or if you have small data caps like me, the load times can be very slow and ads can really chew up a data allowance.

Keeping a back up of add-ons is great idea. Another way to get XPI files directly is by right clicking on "Add To Firefox" on the add-on page and choosing "Save Link As". It will download the XPI file to your device.
You can install add-ons after they are downloaded using the add-on manager, clicking the gear icon and choosing "Install Add-on From File" or you can can drag and drop an XPI file directly into the Add-ons Manager.
Downloading them makes it easier to reinstall them when you're doing a clean install and, as you do, have them as a back up.
I download XPI files into a folder on my hard drive labeled (ever so creatively) XPI files. :)
If you need a previous version, go the add-on page and in the "More Information" section, Under Version History, choose "see all versions". That will bring up all previous versions of an add-on.