Categories
Computing

How to Block Third-Party Trackers in Your Browser

Cookies are data artifacts saved by web browsers on our internet-connected devices. They keep a record of the websites you visit, and in the case of first-party cookies, they’re important for certain essential website features.

Third-party cookies, on the other hand, raise privacy, security, and ethical concerns. Privacy is critical for most people today due to the increase in data breaches, leading many users to look for extra layers of security when browsing.

How do I stop browser tracking?

Third-party cookies represent another easy opportunity for internet users to block some efforts to track and capitalize on their internet traffic and web searches. Here’s how you can block this third-party tracking to stay safe.

Block cookies with a VPN

One way to block browser tracking is using a virtual private network (VPN) to decouple your IP address from your online activity. Mullvad and ProtonVPN are typically spoken of favorably among the privacy-literate, but you’re encouraged to do your own research.

VPNs don’t technically block cookies, but they provide a way around them. Since these programs reroute your internet traffic through servers in other locations, they’ll mislead some tracking cookies. Some VPNs also come with a feature you can turn on to block cookies. Look for a switch saying something along the lines of “block third-party tracking” to enable this.

Block cookies in incognito mode

A frequently asked question is: Should I block third-party cookies in incognito? If incognito keeps your website activity hidden, then what’s the meaning of blocking third-party cookies in incognito?

Unless you’re using a niche browser, entering incognito mode almost certainly disables third-party cookies. Using a browser with any appreciable market share should be fine where third-party cookies are concerned. While your browser will store cookies in incognito mode while you have the window open, it’ll delete them as soon as you close it, stopping third parties from tracking you.

Some modern web browsers also provide a “Do Not Track” option that you can toggle, which has the same effect as disabling third-party cookies, even when you’re not in incognito. Here’s how to block tracking cookies in Chrome and other major web browsers and operating systems.

How to block tracking cookies in Google Chrome

Here’s how to block tracking cookies in Chrome and other major web browsers and operating systems.

If you have Chrome, here are some ways to block tracking cookies in your browser:

Step 1: First, tap or click the menu icon in the upper-right corner of your open Chrome Window.

Step 2: In the menu that drops down, select Settings.

Step 3: Within Settings, find the Privacy and Security section.

Step 4: Select Cookies and other site data.

Step 5: The resulting menu gives you granular control over third-party cookies in windows, incognito windows, and more — including blocking them entirely.

Why are cookies a problem for privacy?

This is a problem for the privacy-minded. There are ethical and possibly legal ramifications for what that website or online service is doing. However, users can receive a detailed summary of any browser fingerprinting or user profiling going on behind the scenes. If so, they must select “yes” in an accompanying opt-in form. States and territories like California and the U.K. are trying to open the “black box” of web-user data-gathering practices using privacy-focused legislation.

There are reasons why this technology exists and reasons a user may wish to opt-in. One way or another, people see advertisement at various points in their day. Some internet users might not mind the prospect of more relevant ads.

Whether or not the methods used to target those ads are ethical is a question best left to individuals. If you want to know more about cookie privacy, check out Digital Trends’ piece here: Are cookies crumbling our privacy? We asked an expert to find out.

How to disable third-party cookies in Safari

Here’s how to disable cookies in Safari’s browser:

Step 1: Click Safari > Preferences in the menu bar for your open Safari window.

Step 2: Navigate to the Privacy panel in the menu that opens.

Step 3: Beside Cookies and Website Data, click the button for Block All Cookies.

Step 4: If you’re using iOS or iPadOS, open the Settings app and navigate to the Safari settings. Under Privacy & Security, toggle the Block All Cookies switch to on.

How to disable third-party cookies in Firefox

If you have Firefox, here’s how to disable third-party cookies in your browser:

Step 1: Select the main menu from the upper-right corner.

Step 2: Select Options > Privacy & Security in the drop-down menu.

Step 3: You’ll see a Browser Privacy section. To block cookies, move the toggle from Standard protection to Custom protection.

Step 4: Custom protection provides options to block all third-party cookies, third-party cookies from sites you didn’t visit, and other options.

mozilla firefox chrome review comparison 2020 mozillafirefoxcomentillustration

Mozilla

How to disable third-party cookies on Android and iOS

Disable third-party cookies on Android if you’re using Chrome. You can do so easily using the above steps. If you’re using an alternative browser, that product may have its own settings for manipulating or disabling cookies. Chrome on Android has the benefit of offering third-party cookie-blocking functionality even for websites you’ve otherwise whitelisted.
If you’re looking for a similar system-level cookie-disabling setting for iOS, you’ll only find it for Safari (as described in the steps above). Alternate browsers will have individual settings.

Why you might want to block third-party cookies

You may want to know a little more about cookies. You may ask: What is a browser tracker, and is a cookie the same thing? For our purposes, the answer is “yes.”
Whereas first-party cookies help provide a smooth user experience and ensure all elements display as intended, third-party cookies track user and device metrics for a range of possibly questionable purposes.

What do third-party cookies do?

The most common reason for implementing third-party cookie functionality is for ad revenue. Using cookies, ad services can target certain demographics and user groups based on their cookie “bread crumbs.”
From web searches to site-specific browsing history, it’s all up for grabs. It’s even possible for advertisers to track users across websites if those websites are members of the same ad services network.

Why are third-party cookies a problem for privacy?

This is a problem for the privacy-minded. There are ethical and possibly legal ramifications for what that website or online service is doing. However, users can receive a detailed summary of any browser fingerprinting or user profiling going on behind the scenes. If so, they must select “yes” in an accompanying opt-in form. States and territories like California and the U.K. are trying to open the “black box” of web-user data-gathering practices using privacy-focused legislation.

There are reasons why this technology exists and reasons a user may wish to opt in. One way or another, people see advertisements at various points in their day. Some internet users might not mind the prospect of more relevant ads.

Whether or not the methods used to target those ads are ethical is a question best left to individuals.

What are some examples of third-party cookies?

Some of the most prolific third-party cookies originate from just two companies: Google and Facebook. The most common third-party trackers from these two technology multinationals include:
* Google Analytics —
Used by marketers and webmasters to analyze web traffic and user behaviors in order to tailor content and marketing efforts.
* Google Doubleclick and AdSense —
Marketers and webmasters use these ad services to target relevant ads to users based on their behavior on the website and potentially across other websites.
* Facebook —
Even something as innocuous as a Like button, embedded content, or a Log In With Facebook option may be enough for companies to form a user profile using Facebook cookies.

Third-Party Cookies Aren’t for Everyone
All of this is probably enough to leave you wondering: With all of the problems associated with web tracking, which browser does not track me and my internet searches?
Avast Browser, Brave, and Safari often receive shout-outs for obfuscating certain browser fingerprinting clues by default. Firefox and Microsoft Edge receive their own accolades for implementing more security-focused DNS protocols.
For most people, third-party cookies are mostly benign, even if they’re somewhat intrusive and a little creepy. If you want to take internet security more seriously than most, however, and remove one more tool bad actors can use to track your online activity, consider blocking third-party cookies using this guide.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Tech News

Pixel 6 could have UWB support for smart speakers, trackers

It seems that ultra-wideband or UWB is the new fad in mobile and IoT markets these days. The wireless communication technology is being used in smart home devices and smart trackers because of their ability to know a device’s location and even orientation. Apple and Samsung are among the first to put this technology to use in their latest phones but it seems that Google might be following suit as early as the Pixel 6 later this year.

Google isn’t exactly one to quickly jump on new trends. Some might even say it takes too long to implement already common features. That said, it sometimes tries to even create a new trend, like its ill-fated, one-time sonar-based Project Soli tech on the Pixel 4.

According to XDA’s Mishaal Rahman, Google might be implementing support for UWB in Android 12. That in itself is a good thing since it makes a UWB API standard across the platform, allowing any and all smartphone makers to support the technology. Where it is testing that feature, however, may be even more interesting.

The tip says that it is being tested on “raven”, which isn’t just the codename for a future Pixel phone. Specifically, it is used to identify a Pixel phone running on Google’s rumored own Whitechapel Arm chip, a.k.a. the GS101 or Google Silicon. In other words, this UWB support could debut on the Pixel 6 later this year, which is believed to be the first to use that custom processor.

That said, it’s the first time we’re hearing about this feature, so there’s no assurance on the timeline of its release. It will also be interesting to see where Google plans to use UWB, as it doesn’t yet have smart speakers or smart trackers that utilize the technology. Then again, Google did suggest it has new Nest products to announce at I/O 2021 this month and those might be part of that reveal.



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Categories
Tech News

Best lost item trackers pitted against the AirTag

Apple has finally launched its much-awaited AirTag to help users locate items from keys to luggage and pets. With the launch of Apple’s own tracking accessory, the market for such devices has started to create a buzz; already there are surveys suggesting that almost 63-percent of smartphone users are “somewhat” interested in purchasing a tracking device. If you’re willing to take the leap of faith yourself, it’s important to weigh your choices before committing to a tag for its affordable price alone.

The AirTag – works in close quarters with the Find My app – is feature-rich and very amicably priced. If you own an iPhone, there shouldn’t be a second thought about the choice but what if you cannot use the AirTags? Yes, there are some interesting trackers already on the market and the likes of OPPO are considering their own Ultra-Wideband-based option that comes with a rechargeable battery instead of replaceable batteries that all in this list prefer. Before we delve into the ready competition, let’s take a look at the Apple AirTag first.

Apple AirTag

The $29 AirTag – also available in a pack of four priced at $99 – is a coin-sized metal tracker that you can clip onto the keychain, slip into your wallet or tie around a bag to keep track of the item. The tracker will require a separate accessory to attach to your equipment and it will work with Apple’s Find My app to locate the lost item.

What We Like

– Apple’s design efficiency
– Use of UWB technology
– Precise tracking

What We Don’t Like

– Separate accessories required
– Only for the iOS ecosystem

The AirTag has a glossy white finish on one side and Apple branding on the other, stainless steel side. The device can be customized with an emoji or letter and is IP67 rated for water and dust resistance. Powered by a replaceable battery, the AirTag uses Bluetooth to keep track of whatever it is tagged to for almost a year before the battery needs to be replaced. And if you have an iPhone 11 or later, the tag can employ Ultra-Wideband technology to see the precise distance and location of the tagged item.

Tile Pro

Tile is at the helm of item trackers. If it weren’t for the AirTag, the Tile Pro 2020 with a massive 400-foot range and the loud alarm would be at the top of every list of gear trackers. Designed to be the very best Bluetooth key tracker out there, it costs $35, which is slightly higher than the competition, but with its smooth design and a reliable app – compatible with Android and iOS – it’s worth that extra bit.

What We Like

– Long 400 feet tracking range
– Loud alarm
– When out of range, shows exact last location

What We Don’t Like

– Smart alert notification has delays
– Slightly expensive

The functioning of the Tile Pro is simple. Open the tile app to track and immediately you will get a loud sound. Follow the sound to the item tagged with the Tile Pro. Just in case you are out of the otherwise long range of the Tile Pro, the device will notify the last known location on the phone, helping you to then track it down. It also features a smart alert that notifies when you’re leaving the house without a tagged belonging but this is an extra cost, provided with an optional subscription of $3/month.

Chipolo One

Packed in with all the convenient features of standard Bluetooth trackers, the Chipolo One amazes with its inexpensive price and effective long-range. An alternative not only to the AirTag, Chipolo One is a perfect competitor to the Tile Pro as well. Priced at only $25 or $75 for a pack of four, the circular-shaped Chipolo One comes in half a dozen color options. The Chipolo One works with an Android or iOS app to receive an alarm and notification on the phone when you leave an item tagged with the Chipolo One behind. This free alert is the same as the subscription-based smart alert on the Tile Pro.

What We Like

– Many color options
– Inexpensive
– Free out-of-range alert

What We Don’t Like

– Very little tracking range
– Basic plastic body

When you have misplaced the tagged gear, you can command through the companion app and the Chipolo will make a loud sound. What also sets the Chipolo One apart from other trackers is that it can connect to your smartphone camera and work as a remote control to take pictures without having to toil with the phone. In the same breath, it can also help track your phone. This two-way feature is present in some other trackers as well, but here the alarm triggered wouldn’t go off until you’ve unlocked the phone and launched the Chipolo One app.

Tile Mate

Tile makes some of the most interesting Bluetooth trackers in various price ranges. Following closely on the heels of the Tile Pro is the most recent Tile Mate, which gives you almost the same features as the Tile Pro (with limitation in tracking range and alarm sound). With a range slightly more than the Chipolo One, Tile Mate also differentiates itself with the use of Bluetooth Low Energy to connect with Android devices.

What We Like

– Attractive pricing
– Decently loud alarm

What We Don’t Like

– Single white color
– Limited tracking range

Similar to the Tile Pro, Mate connects to the phone and displays the last seen location, in case you have ventured out of its range. The Tile Mate is said to have an almost 200 feet range but in the real world, it is much less. Powered by a standard, replaceable battery, the Tile Mate costs the same as the Chipolo One at $25, but like its elder sibling requires a Tile Premium subscription to avail out-of-range alert. It however supports two-way tracking to help locate your misplaced phone.

Orbit

There could be another Tile variant filling the ranks here, but we chose the Orbit key finder for its aluminum finish and IPX6 rated splash-proof design. Made to clip onto the keys or popped into a wallet or bag, the stylishly designed Orbit comes in almost a dozen different colors to choose from. It does the tracking chores using Bluetooth and a companion app – Android and iOS compatible. Just tap the find button on the app and a subtle sound plays intermittently allowing you to zero down the location. Since the range is very limited, you need to be in close proximity of the tracker all the time.

What We Like

– Striking brushed aluminum body
– Interesting two-way find feature

What We Don’t Like

– Very short range
– Faint alarm sound
– Short battery life

Just like the Chipolo One, the Orbit can also function as a remote to snap pictures using the phone camera. If you happen to misplace the phone, trigger the button on the side of the Orbit and the two-way feature activates – the phone begins to buzz and becomes easier to locate. Digital-leash is a cool function that sends out notifications when the tracker is left behind. The safe-zone feature ensures the alarm doesn’t go off when you’re in a designated area so accidental buzzes can be averted. Like the other trackers in the list, Orbit is powered by a replaceable battery, which only lasts six months before requiring a replacement.

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Categories
Tech News

The Winston Privacy Filter crushes the ads, trackers, and data theft that’s strangling your home WiFi

TLDR: The Winston Privacy Filter cloaks all your home WiFi traffic, blocking ads, trackers and other data collection while encrypting all your web activity to make you virtually invisible online.

You might think most of your home WiFi bandwidth is eaten up by media consumption like streaming video, podcasts, or that 6-hour YouTube binge. It plays its part, but what’s actually taking up almost half of your home internet activity is junk you didn’t ask for and, in most cases, really don’t want.

Stuff like ads. And trackers. And cookies. And logging. And telemetry services. All this online stuff that website owners and marketers use to try and geo-target you and all your buying habits. They tax your device CPU, slow down the time it takes to render pages in your browser, and just create way more communication between your devices and the web than you need. In fact, you don’t need almost any of it.

Winston can save you. It’s the always-enthusiastic bouncer who stands guard over your entire home network, ready to lay the smack down on any and all ads, trackers, and other unnecessary data transfers that slow down your web connection and make users and their vital information vulnerable. Right now, the Winston Privacy Filter is available for $20 off the regular price at only $179 from TNW Deals.

Winston is a hardware device that installs between your home modem and ISP router, then throws a blanket of protection over every device in your network, blocking ads, trackers, and data transfers that slow your web access and steal your data. And Winston doesn’t just safeguard laptops and phones. It’s covering every web-enabled device in your house, including smart TV, smart thermostats, smart refrigerators…everything.

But Winston is more than just an ad blocker. The device goes a step further, not only knocking out marketer attempts to catalogue you, but fully encrypting all of the network web traffic, routing over a zero-logging, proprietary distributed Privacy Mesh network that cloaks your location and identity from anyone peeping on your network.

Winston is a beast, swatting back hidden first and third-party tracking cookies as well as sophisticated browser fingerprinting techniques that can track you even in incognito mode. Winston also protects against DNS rebinding attacks, blocks annoying popups, and monitors all incoming and outgoing traffic to help increase your browsing speed. 

The Winston Privacy Filter is also a one-time purchase, so unlike VPN services that don’t safeguard an entire network, Winston requires no subscription fees. Regularly $199, get protected now for only $179 while this offer lasts.

Prices are subject to change.

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Categories
Security

Security researcher recommends against LastPass after detailing 7 trackers

A security researcher is recommending against LastPass password manager after detailing seven trackers found in the Android app, The Register reports. Although there is no suggestion that the trackers, which were analyzed by researcher Mike Kuketz, are transferring a user’s actual passwords or usernames, Kuketz says their presence is bad practice for a security-critical app handling such sensitive information.

Responding to the report, a spokesperson from LastPass says the company gathers limited data “about how LastPass is used” to help it “improve and optimize the product.” Importantly, LastPass tells The Register that “no sensitive personally identifiable user data or vault activity could be passed through these trackers,” and users can opt out of the analytics in the Privacy section of the Advanced Settings menu.

LastPass’s trackers include four from Google which handle analytics and crash reporting, as well as one from a company called Segment, which reportedly gathers data for marketing teams. Kuketz analyzed the data being transmitted and found it included information about the smartphone’s make and model, as well as information about whether a user has biometric security enabled. Even if the data transmitted isn’t personally identifiable, just integrating this third-party code in the first place introduces the potential for security vulnerabilities, according to Kuketz.

“If you actually use LastPass, I recommend changing the password manager,” wrote Kuketz (via machine translation). “There are solutions that do not permanently send data to third parties and record user behavior.”

LastPass isn’t the only password manager to include trackers like this, but it appears to have more than many popular competitors. Free alternative Bitwarden has just two according to Exodus Privacy, while RoboForm and Dashlane have four, and 1Password has none.

The report comes on the heels of LastPass’s announcement to severely limit functionality in its free tier. While free users are currently able to store an unlimited number of passwords across devices without limitation, soon they’ll have to pick one category of devices to view and manage their passwords on — “Mobile” or “Computer” — unless they want to pay for the service. The changes will come into effect on March 16th.

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