Managing your online privacy

Spyware is a more accurate term for "cookies"

A “cookie” is a friendly-sounding name, but that doesn’t mean all cookies are friendly and innocent! 

Originally designed to store stateful information (e.g. maintaining items in an online shopping basket, or authentication details to keep you logged in) cookies were quickly exploited by the ad-tech industry using 3rd party cookies and scripts to track all activity by a user; not just on the site you’re on, but across multiple sites. 1st party cookies (i.e. those issued by the site you are visiting) are usually “essential” – necessary for the operation of the site, and legally do not require any additional consent from users, provided their use is described in a privacy policy.

However, as already mentioned, not all cookies are equal… Google Is Tracking You On 86% Of The Top 50,000 Websites On The Planet… I doubt very much that this gross invasion of privacy was what was intended when cookies were invented.

Thankfully Google is phasing out cookies in their Chrome browser response to pressure for greater privacy. However this is likely to benefit Google and phase out 3rd party ad-tech companies, rather than phase out tracking and advertising!

At www.revoke.com we don’t use cookies by default unless you explicitly opt in to save your language preference, or opt in to use our chatbot.

We recommend clearing cookies regularly, if you aren’t already using a privacy-centric browser.

This post describes a few ways you can improve your privacy online by switching to alternative products and services, and checking existing settings.

  1. Clear your cookies regularly
  2. Use a privacy-centric browser (e.g. Brave)
  3. Use DuckDuckGo instead of Google
  4. Use privacy-centric messaging
  5. Delete off-Facebook activity
  6. Review Facebook permissions

Use a browser that respects privacy

At Revoke, we love Brave.

In their words:

You deserve a better Internet.
So we reimagined what a browser should be.
It begins with giving you back power. Get unmatched speed, security and privacy by blocking trackers.

As a user, access to your web activity and data is sold to the highest bidder. Internet giants grow rich, while publishers go out of business. And the entire system is rife with ad fraud.

We couldn’t have said it better!

You can download mobile browsers for iOS and Android as well as desktop for Windows 64-bitWindows 32-bitmacOS and Linux.

If you insist on using another browser, Privacy Badger has plug-ins for Firefox (including mobile) & Opera, or you could try Adblock Plus or AdBlock.

Use DuckDuckGo

Imagine for a second that somebody knew EVERYTHING you had ever searched for? A very accurate, private and personal picture of you would be deduced from this.

You think that private browsing means that you’re not being tracked? When you probably have Gmail open on another tab? Or just searched for something else in another browser window… from the same IP address..?

At Revoke we love DuckDuckGo and strongly recommend it as a search engine.

In their words:

Our privacy policy is simple: we don’t collect or share any of your personal information.

We don’t store your search history. We therefore have nothing to sell to advertisers that track you across the Internet.

Other search engines track your searches even when you’re in private browsing mode. We don’t track you — period.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for with DuckDuckGo, handy shortcuts enable quick redirects to various other search engines (privacy not guaranteed if you leave DuckDuckGo!).

DuckDuckGo also have privacy-respecting mobile browser apps for iOS and Android.

Switch to privacy-centric messaging

Over 2 billion people use WhatsApp. You are very likely to be one of them.

WhatsApp claims all communication is secure, and “only you and the person you’re communicating with can read or listen to them, and nobody in between, not even WhatsApp” although the company has a chequered past when it comes to privacy & security.

After WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for US$19 Billion this caused further doubt as to its privacy and security, resulting in co-founder and CEO Jan Koum quitting over privacy disagreements.

Alternative options include:

Signal

  • Independently reviewed by security analysts and cryptographers including Edward Snowden and Bruce Schneier.

Telegram 

Delete off-Facebook activity / review Facebook permissions

You may not have realised how many sites share you activity with Facebook – even if you don’t have a Facebook account!

Facebook recently rolled out a feature enabling you to manage what sites are sharing data with Facebook – your “off-Facebook” activity.

Worrying times when governments are sharing data with commercial organisations about activities on their sites…

The Electronic Frontier Foundation published an excellent post “How to Change Your Off-Facebook Activity Settings” that we recommend checking out for step-by-step instructions.

Additionally, it is worth regularly reviewing what apps and sites you may have logged into Facebook with. Delete anything you don’t recognise or don’t use, and preferably use a separate account for each site you want to use (with a password manager for unique and secure passwords).

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