Getting serious about privacy

I think we’ve all heard of the stories – I mention that I was looking to buy this or I did a search for that product and then, lo and behold, advertisements for that product appears on your desktop. Coincidence or not, it’s pretty freaky when it happens.

A long time ago, I took action around here to block advertising and third party cookies. When I want to purchase something, I would like to do my own research and come to my own conclusions about products. Plus, I didn’t like all the bandwidth that these advertisements were using. It definitely slowed things down here and my internet access is slow enough to begin with.

If only this setting, which is available on all modern browsers, did the trick.

Basically, websites are on their honour to recognize this and do something about it. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a banner that told you that they respecting you. Actually, search engines like DuckDuckGo that do respect you make that claim up and front. Thank you for that.

For the others, I guess we’re on our own. Allow it to happen or do something to prevent it like installing an advertising browser blocker.

Fortunately, for us, latest releases of browsers are helping the cause.

Opera has advertising blocking built right in and also offers a free VPN.

Brave also has advertising blocking as a key component. It also has an interesting feature – most modern browsers allow you to open a “Private Window” which has a limited privacy protection. But, Brave also allows you to open a tab using the Tor network. That’s very handy instead of using the Tor Browser.

Chrome is promising a feature that will block what they’re calling “heavy” advertising. Where the advertisement blocking extension fits into this remains to be seen.

This weekend, I’ve been playing around with the latest in Privacy protection from Firefox. It’s labelled as “Enhance Privacy Protection”. Rather than just taking their word that they’re blocking things, a graph, by day, shows what they’re blocking. As I write this, Firefox claims that it has blocked 47 trackers. For the record, it’s 11:15 on Sunday morning. I’ve been on Twitter, Facebook, Flipboard, my blog, and a couple of newspaper websites. I haven’t even checked my email yet; it’s the weekend…

So, what’s it blocking?

There’s a warning that some sites won’t work with this level of paranoia. That’s always been the concern when you’re using blockers. For those special times when I absolutely need to go to a website, I’ll open it in a Private Window so that it can set all the cookies it wants and they’ll be gone when I close the window.

If you do one bit of learning today, read the corresponding documentation from Mozilla.

Trackers and scripts Firefox blocks in Enhanced Tracking Protection

Are you a rat?

Yesterday, Peter Beens asked me if I have ever used the Brave web browser.  The answer was yes but with a qualified … but not for a while.  I felt guilty so fired it up, did the required updates, and then decided to make it my browser of choice yesterday afternoon.

But, before that, I had to juice up the interface a bit.  As I went into the preferences, Brave had dark and light built in but then I noticed that it supported themes from Google.  Remember the post from about a month ago about Google themes?  Off I went to grab one of those beautiful coloured themes.

That’s where I found the rat worm hole!

Under the coloured themes from Google was a new collection of themes – based upon the Chinese Zodiac.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I’m waiting for my Hot and Sour Soup to show up at any Chinese restaurant, I always read the Zodiac Sign placemat.  Doesn’t everyone?

With these collection of themes at the Google Extension Theme Web Store, you can now bring your browser to life with your Zodiac sign.  Or, someone else’s sign…


The sketches are incredibly well done and show up on your new tab page.   (unless you have defined a new tab over-riding than the built-in one).

The colours are all pastel colours based upon the sign you chose so if you installed the Rat Theme, your browser will look like this.


Of course, I had to try them all and read the descriptions for each.

Who needs a placemat?

And they display nicely in the Brave browser.


Setting a new standard?

I’ve been using advertising blockers on my computers for a while now.  With the slow internet connection I have, it makes all the difference in the world.  After a while, some advertising just becomes obnoxious, so intrusive and then they I just became numb to them.  Except for wondering why it takes forever for some web pages to load.  I do feel badly at times because it’s the only source of income for some.

Hopefully, there’s ultimately a message in there for advertisers – make yourself less annoying and maybe we’ll welcome you back.

There’s been a great deal written about these things and ways to avoid them recently.  In the not so distant past, you’d read about the virtues of the various advertising blocking extensions.  What do they do?  How do they know an advertisement from a story or an image?  How can you allow some advertising and disallow others?

If you use blocking, there are some websites that have retaliated and will not allow you access any more.  Or, there are others that will request that you white list them since advertising is their only source of funding.

Then, there are the web browsers abilities.  Just about every browser supports add-ons or extensions that allow you to choose your favourite ad blocker utility and install it.  Like anything, there’s a hit on your browsing performance with every one you install and there are plenty of reviews available for reading to help you make a choice.

Now, there’s the browser themselves.

The first to hit my radar was the Brave Browser.  It claims to be built with safety in mind and does the trick when it comes to blocking advertising.  There appears to be a long term plan for working with advertisers.

The second to catch my interest is the Opera Browser.  On my computers, where I have a bunch of browsers installed, it’s the Chromium based browser that I use the most.  Just recently, it added ad blocking to its release channels.  It’s just a toggle to turn on in the preferences.  It comes with some exceptions to the advertising blocking that you can adjust and also white list your own, if desired.

This morning, I used Opera and turned blocking on and off to see the results on one of the news sites I visit regularly.

I reloaded and ran it again and this time it found 20.  Details about the blocking are available by clicking on the little shield.

Clicking through to the Speed test gives you an indicator of how long it loads with and without the ads.  In this case, Opera claims to load the one page 60% faster.  Of course, your mileage may vary and the results are from the browser.  But, I’d rather have that 60% available to do something else.

Opera also runs on mobile with the ad blocking feature.  

It also uses other data saving technologies (with a warning) to keep bandwidth and speed hits to a minimum.

Now that there are two web browsers on the market with this feature built in, will it be long before others follow?  If they do, and you have to believe that the big guys are watching the user numbers from Brave and Opera, will it be long before it’s implemented more universally?  It will be tough with Chrome since Google relies on advertising but you might see some selective blocking.

And what of the advertisers and content providers?  You know that they have been looking at this issue for a long time for their marketing plans.  Is there a way that they can still incorporate advertising that’s tolerable to the browsing public instead of some of the big, noise, bandwidth consuming things that started this whole issue to begin with?  I’ve got to believe that they are looking at this, investigating ways.

Ultimately, we should all get a faster and safer web browsing experience.