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Privacy On-Lock: Tracing Your Online Profile

Bursting the Bubble

Burn your Cookies

Many companies track you from site to site using cookies. Cookies are small bits of data that your browser stores when you are on a particular website. If permission is enabled, other sites can then tell what you were looking at and use that information to determine what to show you next. 

     Ex. If you share a recipe on Facebook, you may start seeing ads for cookware.

Erase your Web History

Your web history provides Google with a lot of information about you, which helps them to personalize your browsing experience. 

Ditching your Data in Google Chrome

Go Incognito, or, better yet, Anonymous

Personalizing your browser gives websites information about you. You can stop this by using default settings. You can also use an incognito/anonymous browser, like the ones below:

This tool allows you to test your browser to see how identifiable you are by websites, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Going Incognito on Google Chrome
Alternatively, you can open a Google Chrome browser and press Control+Shift+N.

Consider Adding these Chrome Extensions

One way you can burst your Filter Bubble is by restricting access to your information. 

  • Protect my Choices
    • Helps preserve your opt-out choices for interest-based ads from companies participating in the DAA Self-Regulatory Program.
  • Privacy Badger
    • Privacy Badger is a browser add-on that stops advertisers and other third-party trackers from secretly tracking where    you go and what pages you look at on the web.  If an advertiser seems to be tracking you across multiple websites without your permission, Privacy Badger automatically blocks that advertiser from loading any more content in your browser.  To the advertiser, it's like you suddenly disappeared.

While you can’t get rid of the bubble entirely, you can do a few simple things to expand your bubble and get different perspectives.

What They Know About You

Based on your previous activity (search history, e-mails you've sent and who you sent them to, etc.) and your demographics (your age, where you live, etc.) Google makes certain predictions about you.

These predictions are listed in the 'Ad settings' profile. From this screen, you can turn Ad Personalization off, delete any interests that are incorrect, and install Google's opt-out extension.

What They Know About You

Based on your previous activity (who you friend, which posts you like, which videos you watch, etc.) and your demographics (your age, where you live, etc.) Facebook makes certain predictions about you. For example, if you like the page for the Property Brothers and you are friends with a contractor, you may be interested in architecture. Look at your Facebook information and edit your preferences.

Hack your Newsfeed

Facebook uses algorithms to determine what you see on your newsfeed. If you stop interacting with certain people or groups, their posts will eventually disappear from your timeline. Manage your Newsfeed Settings and tell Facebook what you want to see.

Update your Privacy Settings

Facebook oftentimes makes changes that cause private data to become public. There is no 100 percent effective way to stop this. Below are instructions to make your data as private as possible and turn off instant personalization. Ad companies can also more easily identify you if you provide Facebook with your birthday. If you do, leave off the year to make it more difficult for ad companies to identify you.

Facebook Data Policy

Basic Privacy Settings & Tools

Hide your Birthday

If you have your birthday listed on your accounts, it is much easier for personal data vendors to match your online profile to your actual human person. Hide your birthday from your profiles (even if you just delete the year). This make it more difficult for these companies to identify you.

Be Unique

When signing up for a new account on any particular website, skip the 'log in with Google' or 'log in with Facebook' option. The harder it is to tie all of your accounts together, the better.

Stretch your Interests, be Curious, and Leave Room for Inquiry

Go ahead and search for things that interest you. Research new hobbies. Window shop. If you have a random thought, explore it. If you give the algorithms more to work with, your bubble will change and grow. 

Read Diverse News

Beware the echo chamber! Seek out sources that oppose your own opinions. It's ok to get angry or to disagree, but it's dangerous to shut those opinions out. Usually, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Take a look at this media bias chart. When you read an article from the right, balance it with an article from the left. 

Search the Deep Web

The web is made up of three different levels. The surface web is accessible to anyone using the internet. Think Google, Yahoo, and Bing. The deep web is comprised of websites that are not indexed by standard search engines. Think banking, medical records, and library databases. Finally, there is the dark web. These are sites that exist on an overlay network and require specific software to access, allowing both the hosts and the user to remain anonymous. Think black market.

When your search depends on un-filtered, un-biased results, search the deep web.

Write your Representative

Lobbyists for the big data vendors tell Congress that this doesn't need to be regulated because consumers don't really care. Basically, they argue that the benefit of personalization outweighs the issue of privacy. Write to your Senator of Representative and tell them that you are paying attention and you want action. Write Congress here:

U.S. House of Representatives

U.S. Senate

More Ways to Pop the Bubble