Help Me Lock It Down!
November 16, 2011 4:25 AM   Subscribe

Looking to implement the most effective reasonable set of best practices for preserving internet privacy and blocking commercial data harvesting. Seeking tips, tricks, hacks, and useful online resources.

Currently, I use Firefox running AdBlock Plus, Taco/Abine/BeefTaco, and NoScript on Firefox for my primary browsing needs, along with GoogleSharing to anonymize searches. I use separate browsers for financial/ecommerce/business/medical stuff and yet a third for all social networking sites that requires a login vs. everyday surfing and searching. I keep flash and ads blocked on all my browsers. I require each browser to alert me and ask permission for each cookie it keeps (on the "business" and social networking browsers), and I flush them all by quitting the browser, re-launching, and re-logging in to all my banking/shopping/medical/employer sites using a (local) password management utility at least once a day. I have my social networking sites set to maximum privacy. I do not stay logged in to Google or Facebook or Twitter except when I need to use those tools. I regularly flush my browser caches, histories, and cookies using CCleaner. I am wary of unsecured wifi networks, and I never do any business/banking/webmail when not on a trusted network.

This took a while to set up, and to change my habits, but I am really pleased with the results. My browsing is so much faster and less cluttered without all the flash advertising, and it is a delight to see Taco's tally of all the tracking cookies and ad networks that have been rejected at the end of the day.

I am looking for suggestions to tighten down the hatches even further. Short of using Tor and PGP etc, steps I think are beyond most people's usual willingness to make the effort at privacy:

1) what are your best hacks for online (specifically web) privacy?
2) what browsers and what plugins/extensions do you use?
3) can you provide links to some up-to-date articles or discussions of this topic with practical and relatively simple solutions to keeping your browser ad-free, avoiding being tracked, and yielding as little personal information to corporate entities (or the government) as possible?

I realize there are some inherent risks you can't easily eliminate without seriously restricting your online activity or engaging in potentially nefarious activities (spoofing MAC addresses and the like). The government could always subpoena your ISP (or maybe not even need to subpoena it!) for your browsing history. A targeted search for you as an individual could yield all kinds of personal information. Facial recognition software is going to make it easier to search images in the near future, etc.

But mostly I am looking for effective and *simple* or straightforward ways to minimize your footprint, be as stealthy as reasonably possible, and deny my information as much as possible to those who would commercially exploit it. I'm asking not only for myself, but because I want to come up with a straightforward set of recommendations for my friends and colleagues who worry about this stuff all the time, but are not even tech savvy enough to install a Firefox add-on without some step-by-step guidance.

Annoyingly, a lot of these tools are not available on mobile platforms (gee, I wonder what that could be about?). So I would also be interested in specific privacy/security hacks for iPhone/iPod Touch, Android, and Nokia Symbian devices.

And finally, in general, why should I trust Chrome's security and privacy controls, since Google makes it?

TLDR: In general, how do you manage your online privacy and security if you take it seriously, and/or can you suggest up-to-date resources for learning about emerging practical solutions to harden your e-bunker.

Thank you!
posted by spitbull to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
I use a Firefox extension called RequestPolicy. It's a little... extreme... but it's really effective. Essentially, it blocks all requests (for everything--flash, CSS, images, everything) which go to any outside domain. For example, this page is requesting things from,,, and You can add exceptions, temporarily or permanently, similar to NoScript.
posted by anaelith at 5:46 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

For 'secure' browsing and web access (because on a public wireless connection, what does that even mean?), I prefer Opera .

DuckDuckGo is a more private seach engine than Google, and better than Bing.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:19 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, there's the Freedom Box, but it doesn't actually exist yet.
posted by yarly at 7:23 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

My favorite FF plug in is Ghostery; it might be redundant (I'm not sure what Taco is), but you might want to check it out.
posted by ifjuly at 12:08 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your ISP can still monitor and log all your unencrypted activity on the internet (e.g. http browsing). There's no good fix to this other than choosing https whenever possible (e.g. Google SSL), choosing an ISP that you trust, or using a service like Tor (which will slow down your connection considerably).

There's also the browser extension Disconnect, which prevents 3rd party sites like Facebook and Google from tracking you. May or may not be necessary, given the other measures you're already taking.

You're doing a great job at looking after your online privacy and security, but make sure you're covering your bases in other areas. For example, do you have a security freeze on your credit? If not, you are vulnerable to some very nasty crimes.
posted by lunchbox at 7:37 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

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