Clark Howard is a nationally syndicated consumer advice expert
Are you concerned with all the discussion about online tracking by the government and private industry? There are some simple steps you can take to limit it.
Ad Block Plus, a browser "add-on" designed to remove many ads from your browser display, can also help disable online tracking as you’re web-surfing, and it’s available for most major browsers.
But if you really want to stop the browsers from tracking you, you'll want to take the following steps, courtesy of The New York Times.
REMOVE AND DISABLE YOUR SEARCH HISTORY
- Go to Google.com/history and log in to your Google account.
- Click the gear icon in the upper right and select 'Settings.'
- Click the 'Turn Off' button. As an additional step, be sure to click the 'delete all' and 'recent activity' links.
- You can also opt out of targeted and search ads on the web and in Gmail by going to Google.com/settings/ads.
- Go to Bing.com/profile/history.
- Click both the 'turn off' and 'clear all' buttons in the upper right corner.
- Go to Search.Yahoo.com/preferences.
- Select 'search history off.'
USE A PRIVATE, NO-TRACK SEARCH ENGINE
Ignore the online trail that you leave behind at your own risk. I recently learned that the #1 weapon fordivorce lawyers in contentious cases is requesting disclosure of e-mail and search history, as well as who you "friend" on social media.
If you want to avoid leaving a trail, you can do your searches through a popular new search tool called DuckDuckGo.
Since 2013 I've been using this tool instead of Google. It delivers cleaner search results with fewer advertisements and does not record your searches.
- To set DuckDuckGo as your homepage, drag this link to the home icon in your Firefox toolbar.
- Here's how to install the DuckDuckGo toolbar on any major browser.
DuckDuckGo was started by 33-year-old Gabe Weinberg. Weinberg thought it was crazy that ads pop up on Google so prominently and they track you everywhere you go and then serve you more ads based on what you search. He just wanted a straight, clean search, and that's what he developed. With no real business model, he's still trying to figure out how to make real money from this creation. But the use of this non-tracking search tool has exploded in recent months.
For other no-track search options, The New York Times also recommends Private Lee, Qrobe.it, IxQuick, and Disconnect Search.
STOP TRACKING ON YOUR PHONE
In reality, the greatest breach of your privacy may be through smartphones. They are a gold mine for people looking to track you, dissect who are, and sell to you. In fact, you have to go back to using a feature phone if you want to avoid data miners! But there is a way to limit the surveillance.
Simply go to SmartStorePrivacy.org and you can opt out of this mobile tracking. Not every player in the tracking business is on board with this privacy initiative, but many of the bigger ones are.
Just click Take Me to Opt Out, enter both your WiFi MAC address and Bluetooth address and then you're opted out. Full instructions on how to determine your MAC and Bluetooth address are also available.
If you really want to go off the grid, use a feature phone like an older flip-phone; use cash instead of credit or debit; and don’t surf the web.
There are less extreme ways to mitigate and limit tracking too. For example, you might segregate your emails and/or browsers -- one e-mail for social media, another for e-commerce, another for news and info sites, etc.
You do have choices if you want to take some control. It’s only a question of how much control you want to take…
Melissa King, a Savings.com DealPro, lives in Savannah, GA. She enjoys "Paying It Forward" in her community. Check her out on her blog at ThisMommySavesMoney.com.
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