How avoid being tracked online

The internet is most likely monitoring every move you make through your computer or device and, unless you know the tricks to avoid being tracked, there’s not a lot you can do about it.

Want to know those tricks? Well, here they are:

1. Use a VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) can protect you against being hacked by encrypting the data moving to and from your computer. A VPN can also hide your IP address, which makes it difficult for anyone to track your computer. It can also enable you to access geo-blocked websites, which are websites that may not otherwise be viewable in Australia. You can use a free VPN, but our tech guys recommend paying for a premium product.

2. Regularly clear your browsing history and cache
Most websites operate with ‘cookies’. These are little files that are stored on your computer and are considered essential for enhancing your browsing experience. By nature, they’re not bad, but they can be used to track your internet activity. You won’t be able to access many websites without allowing cookies, but if you don’t like the idea of being tracked once you’ve visited a website, then you should regularly clear your browser history.

3. Don’t link your social media accounts
While it may seem intuitive to access multiple websites using your Facebook profile, doing so leaves you vulnerable to being tracked and hacked. Apart from Facebook being able to  monitor your activity on those sites, should any of them be hacked, you’re open to having all other linked accounts attacked, too.

4. Don’t use obvious security questions
You know the questions that ask your mother’s maiden name or your first pet’s name? Well, you probably answer them honestly. Don’t. Use them the same way you do passwords. Not only is it easy for a hacker to find out your mother’s maiden name, but if one site is hacked and that information discovered, all other sites which have the same security question are vulnerable.

5. Use a Tor browser
Tor browsers are supposedly more difficult to track than VPNs. They work similarly to any other normal web browser, but through a series of complex machinations, make it very difficult to track your internet activity. But that ‘stealth’ makes your browser run very slowly, too. Still, if masking your online movements is high priority, head to The Tor Project website to find out how to configure your browser.

6. Opt out of Facebook ad tracking
Facebook is tracking your every move so it can better target advertisements in your newsfeed, but you can opt out of ad tracking in a few easy steps.

First, log in to Facebook, then click on the arrow at the top right-hand side of the page. Next, go to ‘Settings’ > ‘Ads’ then, under the Third Party Sites section, click ‘Edit’. Then click ‘pair my social actions with ads for’ and change to ‘no one’ and then hit ‘save changes’. Repeat this action for all the ‘Edit’ sections.

7. Turn off Google tracking
You can also opt out of Google tracking your activity, by accessing ‘Activity controls’. Once in this area, you can control Google’s functions by sliding the sliders off.

8. Carefully check T&Cs and your privacy settings
Most browsers actually give you the option of being tracked, as do many websites. They will often tell you that they want to install a cookie in your browser, although it’s not necessarily required by law. When you set up an online account, carefully check the terms and conditions. Look through your browser settings and check the level of information you’re happy to share with the world. Ultimately, you do have a modicum of control over how much you’re tracked.

9. Use paper, pen and snail mail
The only way your movements won’t be tracked is by returning to the Dark Ages and using old-fashioned forms of communication such as pens, paper, postcards and the postal system. Hey, if you’re comfortable doing that, then by all means, go ahead. There’s certainly something to be said for the intimacy and tangible nature of reading a hand-written note received in the mail, or sticking printed photos you’ve been sent on the fridge.

Are you concerned about how much you’re tracked online? Do you have any tips for stealthily searching the world wide web?

Related articles:
Browsing the internet anonymously
Is the internet taking over your life?
Is your internet connection at risk?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.


How to browse the internet without leaving traces

Do you know that some websites track how often you visit and any products you view?

Australians are becoming increasingly addicted to the internet

Australians are spending 22 days per year more online than two years ago.

NBN switch: is your connection at risk?

By not switching to the NBN, thousands of Australians are risking being disconnected.