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Drawing the (red) line on trackers

Drawing the (red) line on trackers

Trackers are circling around your social media activities the way bees zero in on sweets: Both are incessantly circling around sniffing out the sweetest little details about you. But at least with bees, there is a recognizable buzz in the air when they come near. But many trackers – especially those on social media – are unknown to the average person. Whether seen or not, they are actively collecting information about you.

They aren’t waiting for you

Social media wants your responses and comments – after all, it is supposed to be social. With all of these “like this” or a “tweet this” or “follow me” buttons, there are all sorts of ways for you to add your thoughts and comments – and let someone collect and track these contacts. But the surprising thing is that these little buttons – called social widgets – are already recording information about you without even waiting for you to physically clicking on them. That’s kinda rude. But, you can do something about this.

Be nice or be direct

The nice, rather polite way to deal with trackers has been “Do Not Track.”
With this approach, the individual user steps into the browser settings on their device and clicks in the little box.

Subsequently, as the person surfs away, the browser sends a special signal to visited websites and embedded 3rd party content such as maps that they should not track your activity. The clear weakness of this approach is that it puts the burden on you to click the little box and then relies on the assortment of web-related firms really to not track your every move.

If nice does not work, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has a second, more direct approach with its Privacy Badger plugin – block out trackers and social widgets based on their associates and behavior. If they promise to respect the Do Not Track conditions, they will be whitelisted. And yes, this feature is baked into the Avira Scout browser.

Enough to make you see red

With Privacy Badger fully active – as a standalone plugin or in Scout – it will also block these social widget buttons and even draw a red circle around them.

If you want to click on like or share the post – no problem. Until you do an active interaction, these buttons will not be able to automatically track your every move. This redlining performs a dual function of alerting users that there is someone following their every move and then actually preventing the Facebook server from getting any data it can track with when the button is displayed. Not all buttons are circled in red as this is just the most visible of the several ways that Privacy Badger IDs and blocks the thousands of trackers and social widgets and the use of this particular function can vary with how the website is designed.

Scout out the other modes

Stopping trackers is an important – but optional – feature in Scout. “It is a very good reason to go into the second mode with Scout,” explains Thorsten Sick, architect of the Scout project at Avira. With Scout, you can decide between three security levels; Safe Surfing, Safe and Private, and Custom. With Safe Surfing, you can block out web trackers with Avira’s ABS blacklist. If it is a tracker, we will stop it.

Step up to Secure and Private, you can add Privacy Badger approach identifying trackers by behavior and visually drawing a red circle around the buttons. This is easily one of the best privacy approaches for (nongeek) computer users currently on the market.

Not Depeche Mode, go privacy mode

The quest for online privacy should be music to your ears. After all, the goal is to keep you as an autonomous and private individual, shielded from unwarranted tracking by marketers, agencies, and governments. It is your choice – so draw a red circle around it.

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As a PR Consultant and journalist, Frink has covered IT security issues for a number of security software firms, as well as provided reviews and insight on the beer and automotive industries (but usually not at the same time). Otherwise, he’s known for making a great bowl of popcorn and extraordinary messes in a kitchen.