The Beginner’s Guide to the Privacy. Part 1

For a long time I wanted to write my own online privacy guide, but every time I tried the text seemed too complicated and too boring. Today many people don’t even know how to switch their search engine. Big search engines like Google know this and ready to pay to be the default search engine in your browser. We need to change it!

The Beginner’s Guide to the Privacy.
Part 1: Browsers, search engines and hidden ad trackers

Step 1: Browser

For most users the browser is the main «window» to the Internet, and this means the choice of the browser is very important for your online privacy. Chrome is a bad choice and all Chromium-based browsers from China too.

If you have no preference, begin with Firefox. This is the last non-Chromium browser, and we must support it. If you want control and millions settings, your choice is Vivaldi. If you still need Chrome, try Brave: it looks and works like Chrome, but has much better privacy policy.

Maybe you’ll like new Opera, but because of some nuances today I just cannot recommend it «for everyone», especially for beginners who are worried about their privacy.

Step 2: Search engine

I bet your default search engine is Google. Almost everyone uses Google, and this is really bad for privacy. The only exception is «regional» search engines: for example, in Russia and CIS local Yandex and MailRu Group (both have their own search engine and ad networks) compete with Google on almost equal terms. But a local monopoly is no better than a global one!

If you want to leave your filter bubble and avoid surveillance, try these search engines:

  • DuckDuckGo – doesn’t track or store your search queries, doesn’t filter search results.
  • StartPage – uses own proxy to hide your real IP from websites.
  • Ecosia – donates part of ad revenue to plant trees.
  • Qwant – the main European search engine.

If you really want to support alternative search engines, disable your ad block or add the website to the white list.
NB: you can save the website as a bookmark or add a search engine to you browser. Just search something and check the settings, find the search engine you need and make choose it «as default».

Step 3: Hidden ad trackers

If you see an ad, the ad sees you too. A special script monitors what you do on the page. The more websites an advertising network has, the more information about your they have. Who has the largest ad network? Google!
If you wanna block hidden ad trackers, you need one of these extensions:

  • DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials – blocks ad trackers, switches your connection to HTTPS (when it’s possible) and shows privacy rating of the website.
  • Privacy Badger – blocks ad trackers, and if the extension found the same script on several website, it will be blocked.
  • Disconnect – blocks ad trackers (who could have predicted this?) and available also as a mobile app.
  • Ghostery – blocks ads and hidden trackers, switches connection to HTTPS and edits your data if a website doesn’t work without a tracker

NB: some browsers have their own privacy protection tools, but sometimes it’s disabled by default. Just check your browser settings.

Step 4: Ad blockers

Advertising is the main source of income for any website.But if a website doesn’t respect your privacy, why should you respect its desire to make money? If you use an ad blocker, it doesn’t make you a bad person, a thief, or a pirate. You just try to protect your privacy!
Almost all ad blockers use the same list and have the same features. So you can start from these ones:

  • Ghostery – because you already know it. If Ghostery works fine, why do you need anything else?
  • AdGuard – the only ad blocker with own rules and lists. Nice UI, simple settings. Best choice for beginners.
  • AdBlock and AdBlock Plus – the first ab blocker for Chrome and Firefox. Despite the similar names, they are not related, these are different extensions.
  • uBlock Origin – all-in-one tool you need. It may be too hard for beginners, so I recommend it only if you used something else and need more.

Do I need to warn you that you don’t need to use several ad blockers at once? It’s useless! And if you see some ads, it doesn’t mean that you extension is broken. Remember: the blocking rules are written by the community. Just wait, and they will fix all issues!

Step 5: Cookies and privacy settings

Now it may be a little difficult for beginners. You should open the settings of your browser and check your privacy settings, because some browsers collect your data by default. And pay attention to cookies: I don’t recommend you experiment with these (yet), but you still can and should block third party cookies.
For now that’s all. I hope I won’t abandon this guide after the first part…

Join the Conversation

  1. Just a quick warning about StartPage: It is now owned by a data-mining advertising company with the incredibly ironic and misleading name «Privacyone», and the old and new owners were less than transparent about the transfer. Maybe System1/PrivacyOne wish to mend their evil ways, but the lack of transparency could be interpreted as a strong indication otherwise. Perhaps they have «privacy» in their name to make them sound acceptable, or alternatively it could be because that’s the one thing they perhaps target for obliteration. Who knows? Just don’t use for anything sensitive, or often-enough for a profile to be built, while the likes of DuckDuckGo, Mojeek, SearX and Qwant exist. Probably still less evil than Google, but even lesser evils exist.

    It might also be worth pointing out that Adblock Plus has an «acceptable ads» option to whitelist some ads. Last time I checked, it was enabled by default. I think ad-companies have to pay to be included in this list, and the ads have to meet certain criteria. Some people might not be comfortable with this option, default setting, and the potential conflict of interest. I haven’t used Ghostery in a long time, but I seem to remember it was also owned by an advertising company at one point, again raising conflict of interest issues. As of yet I’ve not read anything to suggest that the developers of Adblock Plus and Ghostery are being anything less than pragmatic and trustworthy, but it’s still worth «keeping an eye on».