From Facebook to Fingerprinting: Thwart Data-Mining with One Essential Privacy Product

From Facebook to Fingerprinting: Thwart Data-Mining with One Essential Privacy Product

Facebook owes the world an apology, and yet its having been exposed tracking, collecting, and sharing far more personal data on its users than previously thought has shed light on the broader, thorny problem facing modern internet users: how best to protect ourselves in a world in which your life is worth less to companies than the information stored about you? How do we strike a comfortable balance between securing our digital lives and enjoying current and future technologies capable of bringing us together, better anticipating our needs, and offering greater convenience shopping, learning, viewing, gaming, and interacting online than ever before?

To address these issues, iolo technologies® offers Privacy Guardian anti-tracking software, with a set of features uniquely suited to address the multiple challenges to online privacy today.

Cookie-based tracking is not the worst of it

Privacy Guardian does not block site content that contains cookies. This crude method of stopping ad-trackers often results in blocking legitimate website content. Instead, Privacy Guardian scrambles the data digital fingerprinting scripts use to try and track you. This is a far more sophisticated form of online tracking than cookies-based tracking.

Digital fingerprinting can acquire vast amounts of information about you by studying your computer’s configuration and your online habits. This info includes: your online purchases, income, debt, videos watched, web searches, vacation habits, marital and child status, and much more.

The mining of such specific information about you can have harmful real-world consequences. Imagine being denied credit because a company has secretly collected data that suggests—however inaccurately—that you are an irresponsible shopper.

Not all cookies are bad

Unlike Privacy Guardian, ad-blocking software hides targeted ads by blocking scripts—but it does not actually remove tracking cookies from your computer. Straight-out blocking, as opposed to deceiving, tracking scripts can affect how sites look and function, including leading to website breakage. And blocking scripts to vanquish all cookies may not be the most favorable option for you for one simple reason: many people like seeing ads for items they have taken an interest in previously, or that are related to other items they have recently purchased. After all, the argument goes, if websites are going to place ads in front of me, they may as well be relevant to my needs and interests.

Privacy Guardian lets YOU decide how often or rarely you see such targeted advertising. With Privacy Guardian’s automated cookie clearance—across all your browsers at once—you can schedule regular purges of the information used to make those ads appear. Privacy Guardian even allows you to “whitelist” specific websites from your scheduled cookie clearance. Regular cookies and browsing data clearance, combined with the anti-fingerprinting methods Privacy Guardian deploys, gives you nearly total control of whether, when and how you are tracked online.

Works well with a VPN

Privacy Guardian is the perfect complement to a virtual private network (VPN). After all, VPNs do not offer total privacy protection on their own. VPNs mask your location by creating a false IP address so it looks as though your computer is browsing from a different location than your physical one. This protects your computer from any snooping your ISP may try to do. But after the VPN server, your traffic flows outside of the encryption, where most of the digital fingerprinting scripts are injected into the web pages you visit, so you can still be tracked even when your VPN is enabled. Privacy Guardian is there on the other side, to confound these scripts with modified data they can’t use on you.

Keep private searches private

Privacy Guardian’s Private Search bar offers yet another level of online privacy protection. Many search engines store, share, and even sell what you search for online. By using the Private Search feature in Privacy Guardian, you can browse the web without fear of anyone collecting info on what you’re searching.

Incognito mode is insufficient

Privacy Guardian also thwarts tracking attempts that get past incognito mode. Incognito mode prevents local storage of browsing data, so items like cookies, search history and autofill are not saved. But incognito mode does nothing to prevent the loading of tracking scripts used by data-mining entities to digitally fingerprint you. This, again, is the process of creating a detailed profile of you by collecting countless metrics from your web browser—a process unabated by incognito mode.

As a test, you can enable Privacy Guardian while browsing in incognito mode and still see the many tracking attempts detected by Privacy Guardian.

Free browser plug-ins won’t cut it

Many people wonder why they should pay for premium browser privacy protection when free plug-ins are available. This article examines several free products on the market, finding each wanting for different reasons. These include breaking websites by blanket content blocking based on a blacklist, masking only limited aspects of one’s digital fingerprint, and in at least one case, the plug-in itself feeding your personal data to the advertising industry!

How Facebook tracks you

Facebook’s purpose is to harvest the personal data of its users to give to companies to better target them as customers. Much of this data is given to Facebook voluntarily: Facebook uses quizzes, surveys, games like Farmville, and the personal data you willfully provided at sign-up to gather info about you. Privacy Guardian cannot stand in the way of this free information exchange if you have opted into it.

However, the collecting of personally identifiable information through Facebook’s Like, Share and Send buttons is counteracted through Privacy Guardian’s fingerprint obfuscation and cookie and browser data clearing functions. Once cookies are removed and a Facebook user’s digital fingerprint is masked, no correlation can be made between the user’s behavior on a website and their Facebook profile.

On top of this, Facebook operates a massive hidden tracker network outside of Facebook, much of it through the Facebook Retargeting Pixel. On third-party sites like pharmacies and others where you don’t expect Facebook to be tracking you, it in fact is. The shadow profiles Facebook creates from people’s browsing histories apply even to non-Facebook users. (And note that Google tracks users across even more third-party sites than Facebook).

Once again, it’s Privacy Guardian to the rescue: fingerprinting scripts used in this effort are thwarted, and ad-trackers stopped via automated cookie clearance and easy, multiple-browser data erasure within the Privacy Guardian UI.

Stay an informed user

Privacy Guardian goes a long way to safeguarding your online experience as modern data-mining worsens. To further protect your privacy while using Facebook, revisit your Facebook privacy settings regularly to be sure your understanding of what you’re keeping private matches what, in fact, you are keeping private. And perhaps think twice about clicking through Facebook links to every quiz site that asks which type of marine mammal or Happy Days character you are.

For more information on protecting your privacy online and in other aspects of your digital life, read about Privacy Guardian and the other tools and features within iolo’s comprehensive performance, protection, and privacy software Phoenix 360™.


An Overview of Available Online Privacy Features

FeaturesAd-blockersIncognito modeVPNsFree plug-insPrivacy Guardian
Alerts you when and which entity is trying to track you

Thwarts digital fingerprinting

Disrupts Facebook Pixel tracking

Clears cookies and browsing history

Stops targeted ads

Won’t block legitimate web content

Does not collect, store, or sell user data

Private search bar deletes your searches

Masks your location from your ISP