Last week Google announced a new way for you to unwittingly star in a Google served ad. Pitched as a way for you and your friends to give each other better recommendations, your picture and name will show by a product that you’ve interacted with – either you followed it, you might have +1 it on Google Plus, or you may have shared it with someone else.
If you don’t want to participate in Google’s advertising scheme, you’ll be told that you aren’t helping your friends out but I think they’ll understand. GigaOM provides instructions on how to opt out. Go to this link and uncheck the box at the bottom next to the text “Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads.”
Facebook has a similar “feature”.
To opt out, you must go to Edit social ads setting. Facebook says that you’ll just appear in ads to your friends but some people, like authors, have hundreds of friends. Under the “Ads & Friends” section, you’ll want to select “no one” in the dropdown box next to the text “Pair my social actions with ads for.”
Other ways to protect your anonymity online is to get an email address that is used only for online interaction. You can use free accounts such as Yahoo and GMail but note that those companies are mining your emails for data. I’ve seen some people create Facebook and Twitter accounts for the sole purpose of entering contests and giveaways. You could do that as well to just provide some barriers between your real name and your online identity.
For tech savvy users, you can use a proxy server to surf the internet. Tor is a free piece of software that you can use to disguise your computer’s internet address. It’s not foolproof but it would probably protect you from data mining companies but not the government, NSA, and other tech savvy people.
Almost all browsers have a private browsing mode usually found in the top menu bar in one of the first couple of options:
For other browsers, a simple key combination can work
- Chrome and Opera: Ctrl+Shift+NP
- Firefox, Internet Explorer: Ctrl+Shift+P
The browser will stop tracking your history and won’t download any cookies thus ensuring a less revealing internet history.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways to create a safer environment online. Obviously, like sex, the only safe way is to stay offline. But if you can’t or don’t want to stay offline, there are a few ways that you can keep yourself out a little less exposed.
If you have any tips for online privacy, drop them in the comments.