Online Privacy 3-Step

posted Jan 27, 2013, 5:27 PM by Tom Pedersen   [ updated Jun 19, 2016, 3:12 AM ]
Here's a quick 3-Step for improving your online privacy, hopefully tested/posted in time for annual Data Privacy Day festivities on January 28.  The goal here was to create a simple procedure that anyone (including my wife and mom) could follow.  For more information on Data Privacy visit a few links on this page - minimally watch Gary Kovacs' TED Talk,  The process is not as easy as it should be, so feel free to drop me a line if you get stumped along the way.  

Here's the step-by-step, followed by an undo procedure, should you decide to go back to your old world.  It is by no means the be-all and end-all for online privacy, but it is a start.  I do expect the topic (and tools) to continue to evolve, but we have a very long ways to go.
  1. Download: Fast, Fun, AwesomeUse a good/independent Web Browser - Firefox (its Free & Easy)
    Vendors who rely on advertising and/or patner revenue have conflicted priorities when it comes to protecting personal privacy.  Stick with Firefox for now, it also supports the privacy add-ons described below.   Firefox users can skip to step 2, others should Download/Install using the button to the right, a pretty simple process for Apple/Mac or Windows users. 
    Install Privacyfix

  2. Visit Privacyfix.com, install the Firefox add-on and run Privacyfix Setup. 

    June 2016 Update:  Sadly, AVG Discontinued PrivacyFix.  BUT, the folks at Comparitech put together a nice replacement step-by-step:  Privacyfix is no more but you can still protect yourself. Here's how.

    This step will take some time & thought as it walks you through adjusting privacy settings on Facebook, Google, and general websites and surfing.  Watch the video instructions provided along the way and make sure you address all items highlighted in orange.  Here are a few notes/comments from my Privacyfix run-through:

    • Facebook Settings:  You'll need to login to Facebook.  I allowed my profile to be indexed on Google so people can still find me, but I blocked Facebook widgets on other sites so Facebook doesn't follow me around.
    • Google Settings:  You'll need to login if you have a google account (or gmail address).  I did not opt out of personalization, which would have blocked most google tracking, but I did blocked Google Plus Widgets so  Google doesn't follow me around as much.   
    • Website Sharing:  Review settings/suggestions
    • Tracking:  I fixed tracking cookies and turned off Ad Tracking
    • Healthbar:  This one is up to you, I probably wouldn't use the healthbar (there is enough stuff on my screen)

  3. DuckDuckGoUse a web search engine that doesn't track you - DuckDuckGo (and install Firefox Add-on)
    Learn about DuckDuckGo and try to use it as an alternative to your current web search tool (Google, Bing, etc) - it is an interesting project.  I'm still struggling with the switch because it has become instinctive to "Google" things.  The Firefox add-on seems to help combined with setting DuckDuckGo as your homepage (instructions in lower right corner of DuckDuckGo Screen).  You can still use google.com as needed, but really don't need to share all hopes and dreams with Google. 

I wish it were easier. 




UnDo Process

Privacy tools are pretty new, so here is a 3-step Undo process in case anything goes bump with the environment described above. 
  1. Firefox:  If you don't like/want Firefox, just stop using it!  Click on your previous browser and set it to your 'Default Browser" - most are very good at detecting and setting themselves as the default.
  2. Firefox Add-ons:  If you want to remove DuckDuckGo and/or PrivacyFix add-ons from Firefox, click on "Tools" in menu, then select "Add-ons".  You should see DuckDuckGo and PrivacyFix in the list of extensions, disable or remove it.  Official Mozilla/Firefox help HERE.
  3. DuckDuckGo:  Reset your default search engine and simply stop using DuckDuckGo.  Google process is Here.  Bing offers help too 

** Or drop me a line and I'll help you set things back ...  I got you into this in the first place!

Notes and Disclosures 

  • The Firefox download link provided above is part of Firefox Affiliate Program.  No monitory kickbacks, just curious how many Firefox' are installed on my recommendations.  I do like the browser, the company and the concept.
  • DuckDuckGo links above contain my twitter handle (duckduckgo.com/?t=tped) - not really an affilate program, just trying to get on the leaderboard.   
  • I suspect privacy tools will evolve quickly, so this 3-step process may change if I find something easier!  
  • Remember, this contraption focuses on the lap/desktop, if you also surf with a tablet an/or phone, you are probably being tracked and handed filtered search results - more to come on this.