Take back the web: your browser

Under the Take Back the Web moniker, I plan to write short, practical and accessible posts about my experiences safeguarding and optimizing computers systems, protecting privacy and bringing spamming and ads to a halt (or at least trying to do so). These are partially for my own reference and partially to share my personal experience, hoping to help others. These are by no means definitive and 100% open to suggestion. Any remark is welcome as a comment at any point. The first installment of Take Back the Web takes a look at browsers in a Windows environment. How to avoid theft of personal information, protect online purchases, stop tracking, eliminate spam and ads.

firefoxaddons

The first choice you have to make is the browser itself: will you stick with the default Internet Explorer Windows provides you with (or Safari in OS X) or should you download Chrome or Firefox. My choice has always been Firefox. Why? Firefox is an open source application and not a commercial product, which means its code is open to review by anyone and free add-ons are readily available. Additionally, it is available on all platforms, so I have the same browser on my PC, Macbook, Ipad and Android phone.

Next, let’s focus on online banners and publicity. “I love to see bright and intrusive ads, taking up a significant amount of my screen real estate” said no one ever. Adblock Plus does an excellent job in removing these from your surfing experience. It’s like they were never there. Yes, even Facebook becomes advertisement-free. Nice innit?

Tracking (as in companies following your online behavior, so they can sell your activity profile) is abundant and a breach of your privacy. Three add-ons solve this issue:

  • The Google Analytics opt-out add-on explicitly communicates that you do not allow this. Legally you are covered, but most trackers simply ignore your opinion
  • The self-destructing cookies add-on deletes cookies when you want it: always, after your browsing session or never. Settings can be easily cutomized in the upper right corner of the Firefox window. Cookies are also used to store usernames and passwords for sites you like to automatically log into, which is where customizing comes in handily. However, personally I prefer Firefox to remember my login credentials (‘autocomplete’), so I can keep tracking at bay.
  • The I don’t care about cookies add-on removes all cookie warnings from all websites. After all, you don’t need to see those warnings if you delete them anyway with the previous add-on.

 

Phishing, malware and unsecured online payment systems are the last three annoyance I want to be done with:

  • Avast Online Security is an add-on that is installed together with the excellent free Avast Windows virus scanner and protects again phising and malware.
  • Avast Safeprice comes along with the same scanner and makes your online shopping a safer experience.

 

iGoogle (as seen in the screenshot) is an image searching tool, I will discuss on another occasion.

 

See, that was swift, painless and you now have the tools to drastically improve your surfing experience.

Don’t you agree with my suggestions or do you know superior solutions? I would love to hear from them in the comments section below.

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