Targeted advertising, the lifeblood of companies such as Google, is one of the greatest threats to our online privacy, eclipsing even the efforts of the NSA is its attempt to track and profile us, so that companies can accurately identify our interests, and use that information to sell us stuff.
We have already discussed in detail the various sneaky and underhand methods, such as zombie cookies, ETags, Web Storage, ‘history stealing’ and browser fingerprinting, along with what you can do about them (in browser fingerprinting’s case not much), used to track a public who is increasingly aware of the dangers presented by browser cookies. We have also looked at browser extensions which help prevent tracking (for both Firefox and Chrome), have explained how to opt-out of Google’s ‘Advertising ID’ system on Android devices, and talked about how using an anonymous search engine such as DuckDuckGo can help.
Well, in our never ending quest to improve BestVPN readers’ privacy, we present some additional ways to avoid targeted advertising. Note that none of the companies in this article promise not to track you – only to not deliver targeted advertising, so it may therefore be more effective to simply block all or most ads using Adblock Edge for FireFox, or Adblock for Chrome.
It should also be noted that all these methods are self-regulatory initiatives, so you have to trust the companies involved to play fair, but the fact that the companies involved have voluntarily agreed to such measures provides some confidence that they can be trusted to abide by them (although none of these methods have been widely publicized).
Opt out of Google Ad Settings
Hidden deep within Google’s settings is the option to control the types of Google ads you see. Subjects Google thinks you might be interested in can be removed selectively, or you can completely opt-out of targeted ‘ads on Google’, and ‘Google ads across the web’ altogether.
Simply visit www.google.com/settings/u/0/ads and scroll to the bottom (if you want to opt-out of all targeted advertising).
Note that as with all methods discussed in this article, you will still see ads, but they will not be uniquely tailored towards what Google and other advertisers think (often very wrongly) your personal interests are.
Your settings will be saved as a cookie on your browser. This means that they are specific to the browser you set them on, and if deleted you will lose the settings.
Download the Google advertising cookie opt-out plugin
Your Ad Settings (above) are saved to Google’s DoubleClick cookie. You can prevent this from being deleted by installing Google’s ‘advertising cookie opt-out’ plugin, available for Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer.
Visit www.google.com/settings/ads/plugin to install the plugin.
Targeted Advertising Cookie Opt-Out (TACO)
Similar to the above Google extension, Targeted Advertising Cookie Opt-Out (TACO) is a browser extension (for Firefox and Chrome) that sets opt-out cookies for ‘100s’ of web advertisers. It includes the Google’s DoubleClick cookie, so you needn’t install both extensions.
The extension also prevents accidental deletion of these cookies, including by programs such as CCleaner.
NAI Consumer Opt-out
The National Advertising Initiative (NAI) is a trade body comprised of 97 leading advertising companies (including Google). By visiting this page you can selectively opt-out of targeted advertising from any member company, or can you can scroll to the bottom of the page and opt-out of targeted advertising from all participating companies.
As with all the above methods, preferences are stored as cookies, and a browser extension is available to protect them from being deleted.
To be honest, we recommend none of these cookie-based methods of preventing targeted advertising because they do prevent tracking, and rely on voluntary compliance to work.
In our view it is much better to take matters into your own hands, and use extensions such as Disconnect, Ghostery, or (even more effective but requires more maintenance and knowledge) NoScript, plus a good cookie manager (such as Cookie Monster or Click & Clean) to prevent tracking (EFF’s alpha Privacy Badger may also be a good choice), plus some version of Adblock, so that you don’t have to see any ads.