How much do you love online content? So much for everything you can pay? Or do you, like the overwhelming majority of Internet users, consider advertising and tracking a way of life?
The saying goes “if you’re not paying the product,” and in the era of Internet services and media, it’s harder than ever. Figuring out who and who is tracking you is not easy, but there are many sites and browser extensions that give you a little more clarity. Here are some of the best.
Panopticlick is one of the first sites. Panopticlick analyzes your current browser setup, including add-ons and extensions, to measure how many trackers your browser is tracing in a session.
This Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) research project takes this a step further by detailing the unique configuration features that make your browser more noticeable than tracking data.
How to use Panopticlick
Go to the Panopticlick site and press the giant orange “Test Me” button. Wait for the analysis to complete. Remember, you will experience different levels of tracking depending on your list of add-ons and extensions. My browser has many extensions blocking almost all trackers, as you will see in the results below.
Note that this test may cause your browser to refresh several times. Do not panic — just wait for it to be completed.
2. Am I Unique?
Am i unique There is a tracker analyzer that focuses on the unique fingerprint focus of your fingerprint. Browsers are relatively unique and are often used to identify you online.
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Do I unique take a fingerprint of your system and in the process add a four month cookie to your system and add it to your database. You can then return to the site in a few weeks and check for changes to your browser fingerprint and if you have become more or less unique.
How do I use Unique?
Go to the Am I Unique site and hit the View My Browser Fingerprint button. Wait for the analysis to complete, then check your results.
If you want to periodically analyze your fingerprint development, go to the “My Timeline” tab in the left-hand menu column. Download the add-on for your browser (there is support for Chrome and Firefox) and check it periodically for changes.
Disconnect features in multiple tracker-blocked lists and for good reason. The browser extension lets you block more than 2,000 personal trackers from around the Internet. Not only that, but by blocking such a large amount of trackers, websites load really fast — 27 percent faster according to the disconnect.
The best disconnect feature, however, is the option to allow some trackers and others. If you are a savvy internet user, you whitelist sites that provide you great content for free. For example, MakeUseOf.
How to use disconnect
Disconnect is extremely easy to use. First, go to the disconnect site and press the “Disconnect” button. Disconnect is currently available for Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera (download link below). Once you install the disconnect, go to a website, and open the extension. The drop-down panel shows you the full range of trackers currently tracking your browser session.
Unlike Panopticlick and Am I Unique, Disconnect lets you visualize trackers, too. Again, this depends on your other browser settings, but you should see some trackers connecting directly to the site. Some may be harmless or may be related to your work or business, so keep in mind exactly what you are putting off. Disconnect is one of many privacy and tracking tools available for Google Chrome.
Download: Disconnect for Chrome | Firefox | Safari | Opera
4. Thunderbeam — Lightbeam for Chrome
Lightbeam is a visual aid for online trackers, displaying a highly complex web of trackers among the personal sites you visit. Lightbeam was the first Firefox-only privacy tool. Unfortunately, the Firefox version is no longer available, but an open-source version is now available for Chrome.
How to use lightbeam
Go to the Lightbeam extension page and add it to your browser. Open the extension by clicking on the lightbeam icon in the upper-right corner of the browser.
You arrive at an empty graph. You can quickly populate the graph by visiting some of your favorite sites. Each site will populate the graph with its respective trackers. When you visit more sites, the links between them grow, quickly creating a spaghetti monster of tangled lines. It perfectly shows which trackers are following you.