One of the country’s largest tech gatherings, South by Southwest, has recently shown privacy to be a trending concern among innovators. The increased attention on privacy is good news for internet users, who may find that the push-back against the mass collection of personal data results in more options for protecting your private information.
More options, however, can be confusing. With plenty of privacy products to choose from, the big picture of online privacy can get ignored, and important protective measures can fall through the cracks.
Is this what’s happening with ad blockers?
Ad blockers, like Adblock Plus, can be good products. These browser add-ons (you guessed it) block advertisements, which can be annoying if not downright distracting when you’re trying to surf the web or work on your computer. Though irritating, ads alone are not reason to be concerned for your online privacy.
The Web Needs Ads: Here’s Why
One downside of ad-blocking is that websites who rely on advertisements or ad-clicks to make money (many independently-run blogs, for example) won’t benefit from your online attention. A lot of valuable web content relies on traffic to sustain itself.
Another downside of ad-blocking is that ads don’t necessarily track you—trackers track you. Some ads are just contextual ads, served by the site you’re visiting or by an advertiser that doesn’t do targeting, retargeting, or continuous data collection. In this case, seeing an ad on a site is just like walking by a billboard: you see it, but it doesn’t see you.
The bottom line is that in order to provide free services to users—from music to movies to blogs—sites need ads. If you want to enjoy free content, chances are an ad-blocker will put a damper on your favorite online experiences, and on the compensation your favorite sites receive.
Numbers Don’t Matter, Mass Tracking Does
If you’ve installed a tracker blocker, you may evaluate which one blocks the biggest list of trackers. However, this is not the best way to decide what tracking protection product to use.
The reason? The most ubiquitous 500 tracking companies make up about 95% of tracking that the average user will find on the top 10,000 web sites. In other words, the most popular websites on the internet generally use a mixture of the most popular trackers.
Since the most far-reaching trackers can find out more about what you do across the popular sites you commonly visit, protecting your privacy is really about keeping the most popular trackers blocked at the sites you frequently visit. This is how tracking offers advertisers a more comprehensive view of who you are and what you like: they look at what you do across the web, not just on one site.
The numbers game, then, is less impressive when you consider that major trackers who dominate most of the internet are the biggest threat to your online privacy.
Now you know that ads aren’t the issue, and neither is the number of trackers. One last takeaway: blocking even the major trackers isn’t enough.
Tracker Blocking Isn’t Enough
The most dangerous misconception about tracker blocking is that it will be enough to keep your information safe online. Tracker blocking alone will not protect your online privacy or personal data.
The internet is an information highway. Think about how many times you are prompted to do one of the following:
- give out your email address when you sign up for an account on a website
- provide a credit card number in order to make a purchase online
- fill out your phone number when completing an online form
Disclosing this type of personal information is far from private, and leaves you vulnerable. Marketers and advertisers can use this uniquely personal information to track you far more effectively than if they were watching what you click or what pages you visit.
In addition to blocking trackers, internet users need to make sure that they don’t send their personal data on a fast track to cyberspace, where it can be stolen by hackers, re-sold by companies, or, in some cases, accessed by anyone with an internet connection.
Protecting all of your personal information may seem overwhelming, which is why Abine created DoNotTrackMe, an easy, all-in-one privacy suite. DoNotTrackMe blocks trackers and masks your email, phone number, and credit card number, so your personal data will not be jeopardized.
It’s easier than it sounds. Try DoNotTrackMe today.