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Getting rid of trackers

Prof. Rom Feria

Published

Google and Facebook are notorious in using trackers on the internet, may it be on websites or mobile applications. These trackers report back to Google and Facebook to inform them which site you visited, which page you went, and in some cases, which item you purchased. In addition, mobile applications that have these Facebook and Google trackers can report back your location, among other data. To protect yourself, you need to wean yourself off from using their products, and blocking the trackers. Unfortunately, the easiest way to block these trackers are via browser add-ons/plug-ins/extensions (unless you use Chrome, which, in itself, is a tracker), but this is limited to your browser. So do we have options to block them from mobile applications?

Personally, I use several ways to block trackers installed on mobile applications. First is to not use Android (Android with Google Play Store is one big tracker for Google). Second, I have several services running on my home network, like Pi-Hole and Circle with Disney. These protect all my devices on my home network by blocking the trackers — from Google, Facebook, and others.

When I’m out and about using mobile data, I have two ways of blocking these trackers. First, I have a paid VPN subscription from Windscribe. The paid subscription comes with a feature called R.O.B.E.R.T. that protects devices from malware, ad trackers, porn, fake news and click bait sites, crypto miners, social networks and other VPNs. In addition, I can blacklist or whitelist additional trackers and sites. The free service only blocks malware.

The second method of blocking trackers is a new one that does not require a VPN subscription. At the moment, the service is free, but the paid subscription plan looks reasonable (around PhP60/month). The service is called nextdns.io, it is a DNS service that comes with an add-on like Pi-Hole. Nextdns.io has an extensive list of trackers that it can block (up to you which ones you want) for you. Similar to Pi-Hole, it has a dashboard that displays the number of trackers blocked, which ones, how often, etc., over the course of the hour, day or week. Setting it up essentially needs changing your devices’ DNS servers to nextdns.io and you are good to go. I urge you visit the site and configure it for your network.

It is a cat and mouse game with these trackers, but trackers don’t do any good — mostly benefits the likes of Facebook and Google. Don’t get me wrong, blocking trackers does not mean blocking ads — there are ads that do not come with tracking, just check DuckDuckGo.com. And lastly, using Chrome with this setup defeats the purpose — again, Chrome is a tracker for Google.

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