The San Jose Mercury News reports on products that people can use to protect their privacy — especially from online targeted behavioral advertisers — while they’re browsing online:
Virtually everything you do online is scrutinized by search engines and advertising networks that evaluate you as a potential customer based on what you search for, the sites you visit and the ads you see — whether you click on those ads or not. […]
So if everything on the Web has eyes, how do you draw the shades? Many relatively simple tools, including a suite of privacy tools offered by Google, industry groups like the Network Advertising Initiative and privacy groups like the [Electronic Frontier Foundation] allow anyone to protect the privacy of a search, to see who is tracking your online browsing, and even to block that tracking. […]
Google and EFF also offer tools that allow you to encrypt any Google search so no third party can monitor the terms you are searching for.
EFF offers free software called “HTTPS Everywhere” that allows people using Mozilla’s Firefox browser to encrypt communications with a number of major websites, including Google search, Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook, most of Amazon.com, and the websites of The New York Times and Washington Post. Download at www.eff.org/https-everywhere. [Peter Eckersley, senior staff technologist for EFF] said the main purpose is to block eavesdropping by governments, hackers or anyone trying to listen in on your home Wi-Fi, and in some cases encryption may also interfere with tracking by advertisers.
Google also now offers encrypted search, at https://encrypted.google.com. The encryption means the search terms a person enters can’t be read by third parties trying to access the connection between a searcher’s computer and Google’s servers. Once you go to another website, however, you’re fair game for tracking.
Another way to limit tracking cookies is to use a privacy mode in your browser called “InPrivate” in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer; “Incognito” in Google’s Chrome browser, and “Private Browsing” in Firefox. In those modes, none of the browsers retain a record of websites visited after a session, nor do they permanently store cookies or temporary Internet files. […]
There are limits to the protection, however. Your computer won’t have a record of your browsing history, but your Internet service provider or employer could still track the pages you visit.