The most prevalent form of monetization on the internet today is advertising. Advertising makes Google and Facebook billions of dollars a year each, and can also fund individual creators like YouTubers and bloggers. To make the advertising machine more effective, companies employ trackers on their websites to collect information about visitors which is used to deliver more relevant ads to them.
However, this highly targeted system can be used to manipulate you financially, emotionally, and politically. There is always a possibility that your information will get stolen in a data breach, and it can be simple to re-identify a person even from an anonymized dataset. Furthermore, most “journalists” in the current year rely on ad revenue for profit, incentivizing clickbait articles that get more views. Just visiting their website, even if you are only there to oppose them or take apart their argument, can generate revenue for them. The advertising model enriches the lying fake news media and corporations like Google which seek to oppress conservative voices.
I’m going to go over several content-blocking techniques and ways to improve your online privacy. A large amount of privacy information can be found on privacytools.io.
The bread and butter of your privacy journey, adblockers do what they say on the tin: block ads. However, they can also be used to block any kind of content, including trackers, annoying UI elements, and malware.
Several options are presented, read them all and choose the one which you feel suits your use case. If you don’t care, I would go with Nano plus Nano Defender.
Straightforward – uBlock Origin
Find uBlock here. Why uBlock? It is open source, more efficient, and customizable. Be sure to get origin, as the other one with the same name is not open source.
Extended – Nano
Find nano here. Nano is a fork of uBlock Origin with some advanced features. However, with a limited fanbase, they have neglected browsers other than Chrome.
Spiteful – AdNauseam
Find AdNauseam here. Another fork of uBlock for those that wish to be more aggressive against advertising corporations. AdNauseam not only blocks ads but simulates clicks on them, the goal is to make your data so generalized that your behavior is indistinguishable from random. This model is so dangerous that Google has banned it from the extension store, and took the further step of preventing you from manually installing by blocking it from the Chrome application itself. This extension is a good choice if you not only want to defend yourself but also want to cause damage to the enemy.
Anti-Anti-Adblock – Nano Defender (optional)
Find Nano Defender here. In response to the surge of adblockers, publishers now deploy anti-adblock solutions to try and retain their shekels. Anti-adblockers disable page functionality when they detect that the visitor is using an adblocker. Nano Defender is an extension which continues this cat-and-mouse game by blocking those anti-blockers. If you have Nano then it is as simple as installing this over it, if you chose a different one then there are instructions on how to make it work.
Ads are blocked by using lists that specify how to block content. Though uBlock’s settings you can install various others, or define your own. Here are my recommendations of additional lists to install (many will be pre-clicked):
Browser – Vivaldi, Firefox, or Tor Browser
Google will always own your online experience if you use Chrome. If you rely on Chrome-specific extensions, use a Chromium-derived browser like Vivaldi. If you can, Firefox is much more focused on user empowerment. Tor is a protocol which makes your internet traffic anonymous by routing it through multiple intermediary layers, and the Tor Browser Bundle makes it easy to use it in your daily life.
Password managers generate random, long, and secure passwords and store them securely.
Protonmail. They encrypt your email, have a free tier (though I recommend paying), accept bitcoin, and are not based in the US (and are thus not obligated to respond to a National Security Letter).
A VPN passes your traffic through another machine. It is not as strong as TOR, but can hide your traffic from people on the same WiFi or your ISP. The field is vast, but NordVPN is fairly popular. ProtonVPN is another good choice especially if you went with Protonmail, as then you can have one payment for everything. Mullvad is nice because they don’t even require an email to function and gives you a token instead to sign in with.
Signal for mobile phone, Riot.im/matrix for a Discord alternative. (Plug: join my Riot community!)
Windows is the worst in terms of privacy. MacOS is better, but you are still fundamentally not in control of your computer. Linus derivatives give you vastly more control and customization. If you are new to Linux, I would recommend Linux Mint or Ubuntu as a first system, and Tails or Parrot if you are an advanced user and looking specifically for privacy. Try a few out easily and without commitment using Virtualbox to get a feel for the installation process and how the OS looks.
I hope that this article has helped you take more control of your privacy.