Last Updated on April 17, 2017 by Dave Farquhar
I found some tips to help stop social networking sites from tracking you outside of them at a surprising place: Infoworld.
And yes, to one degree or another, social networking sites can track what you’re doing on the rest of the web. If that doesn’t bother you, move along. If it bothers you, read on.
The main thing they can track is clicks. Any time someone posts a link to anything and you click on it, those sites can track whether you clicked, and how long you stayed there. If you don’t like that, copy the URL and paste it into your location bar rather than clicking on it.
You can also use the Firefox extension trackmenot, which fakes search queries into Google and other engines. If you can’t stop them from tracking what you search for, at least you can obscure it by burying it in a bunch of bogus searches. Another addon, called Better Privacy, eliminates some of the so-called “super cookies” used for tracking. I’ve been using the latter for the last couple of years.
And the last suggestion in the article was to use a different web browser, such as Google Chrome, exclusively for social networking, while using another browser, such as Firefox, for everything else. That should work, but I would recommend installing Better Privacy in both browsers if you want that tactic to be effective. I believe it’s possible to use a Flash-based super cookie to spy on what’s going on in between browsers. And if it isn’t possible today, someone’s working on it.
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.
One thought on “Stop social networking sites from tracking you”
It seems that Google Chrome has the ability to delete Flash cookies built into the browser. When you select, Wrench > Tools > Clear Browsing Data (or Ctrl-Shift-Del), make sure you have “Delete cookies and other site and plug-in data” selected, and then when you click on clear browsing history it will delete whatever is in the Flash cookie directories. I just tested it out by creating a test entry in the Flash cookie folder and Chrome deleted the test directory. It also appears to reset the Flash settings file, settings.sol. It seems that anytime you use Chrome’s ability to delete the cooking and plug-in data, the settings.sol file reset to the time stamp when the browsing history was cleared.
If you manually delete the settings.sol file, it appears that the Flash settings are reset to Adobe’s defaults, when you visit the Macromedia Flash settings page for your computer. So, if you have the settings set to not allow any sites to store content on your system, the setting is defaulted back to allowing 100KB of data to be stored. If you use Chromes ability to delete the Flash cookies, the file is reset, but it retains the settings you had specified on the Flash settings page for your system, so I can’t say for sure what exactly Chrome is purging from the settings file.
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