Within a couple of minutes after reading these paragraphs, I had installed and configured Ghostery to block cookies from over 500 advertising-related tracking sites.
The recent iPhone location-logging controversy caused quite a stir in the media. But as I noted on Twitter a couple weeks back, many of the people upset that their phone keeps track of nearby GPS towers and WiFi access points are oblivious to the fact that their Web-browsing habits are being tracked—often with far more detail—every time they go online.
For example, pretty much any blog or news site you visit (yes, including Macworld.com) uses scripts and tiny (or invisible) images—often called bugs—to track your online behavior and, usually, provide that information to ad networks and other Web-usage trackers. Whereas prior to iOS 4.3.3, someone with access to your iPhone’s backup could get a general idea of where you’ve been, chances are numerous companies have detailed profiles that include the kinds of sites you visit, which topics you find interesting, and possibly even specific items you’ve purchased.
Ghostery’s notification panel Some will say this is just part of using the Web. But if, like me, you’d rather not make it so easy for companies to build a profile of your ‘net activity—or if you’d at least like to be able to know when that activity is being tracked—check out Ghostery, a Safari extension (also available for Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer). With Ghostery installed, whenever you visit a Web page that uses such tricks to track, you’ll briefly see a box listing all the services that are tracking your visit to that page.
(click here to continue reading Evidon/The Better Advertising Project, Inc. Ghostery 1.0.0 for Safari Web Browser Review | Macworld.)
I allowed Google Analytics, and SiteMeter, because I don’t mind letting webmasters knowing I visited their site, but why should DoubleClick get my data? Or worse, why should a company like Right Media or Facebook be able to profit off of me? I realize that if every browser blocked advertising cookies, some websites might vanish, or switch to a pay-to-view model, but I don’t care. Would my life really be less enjoyable if I couldn’t visit ESPN to check NBA scores? Or read about the latest vapid pop-culture meme at the Huffington Post?
So if you use Safari, Firefox, Google Chrome, or if you are stuck using Internet Explorer, you should go ahead and install Ghostery. Simple, and useful. You don’t even have to automatically block cookies, you can just decide as you encounter them, or allow them from certain websites if you wish1Footnotes: