Want to see who’s following you online? Here’s what you need to know about who is following you online and how to stop them.
How much do you like online content? Are you paying so much for everything you can? Or do you, like the overwhelming majority of Internet users, accept advertising and tracking as a way of life?
The adage goes, “if you don’t pay, you are the product”, and when it comes to Internet and media services, it’s more true than ever. Finding who and what is following you is not easy, but there are several sites and browser extensions that give you a little more clarity. Here’s how to find out who’s following you online.
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Panopticlick is one of the first sites to discover. Panopticlick analyzes your current browser configuration, including add-ons and extensions, to measure the number of trackers following your browser session.
This Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) research project goes one step further by detailing the unique configuration features that make your browser more visible among tracking data.
How to use Panopticlick
Head over to the Panopticlick site and press the giant orange “Test Me” button. Wait for the scan to finish. Keep in mind that you will benefit from different levels of tracking, depending on your list of add-ons and extensions. My browser, for example, has several extensions that block almost all trackers.
Note that your browser may refresh several times during the execution of this test. Don’t panic, wait for it to end.
Am i unique? is a unique fingerprint focused tracking analyzer that your browser broadcasts. Browsers are relatively unique and frequently used to identify you online.
Am i unique? takes a fingerprint of your system and adds it to its own database, adding a four month cookie to your system in the process. You can then go back to the site in a few weeks and review the changes to your browser’s fingerprint and whether you’ve become more or less unique.
How to use Am I unique?
Head to the Am I Unique? site and click the Show fingerprint button on my browser. Wait for the scan to complete, then check your results.
If you want to periodically analyze the evolution of your fingerprint, head to the “My timeline” tab in the left menu column. Download the add-on for your browser (there is support for Chrome and Firefox) and check it regularly for changes.
Disconnect features in many tracker blocklists, and for good reason. The browser extension prevents more than 2000 individual trackers from following you on the internet.
Not only that, but by blocking such a large number of trackers, websites load faster – up to 27% faster, according to Disconnect.
The best logout feature, however, is the ability to allow some trackers and not others. If you are a sophisticated Internet user, you add sites that offer you excellent content for free. MUO, for example.
How to use Disconnect
Using Disconnect is extremely easy. First of all, head to the Disconnect site and click on the “Get Disconnect” button. Disconnect is currently available for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera (download links below). Once you’ve installed Disconnect, head to any other website and open the extension. The drop-down panel shows you the full range of trackers that are currently rating your browser session.
Unlike Panopticlick and Am I Unique ?, Disconnect also allows you to view trackers. Again, it depends on your other browser settings, but you should see trackers connecting directly to the site. Some may be harmless or related to your job or business, so be aware of what you are turning off.
Signing out is just one of the many privacy and tracking tools available for Chrome.
Lightbeam is a visual aid for online trackers, displaying the extremely tangled network of trackers between the individual sites you visit.
It used to be a Firefox-only privacy tool. Unfortunately, the Firefox version is no longer available, but there is now an open source version available for Chrome.
How to use Lightbeam
Go to the Lightbeam extension page and add it to your browser. Open the extension by clicking on the Lightbeam icon in the upper right corner of the browser.
You come to an empty graph. You can quickly populate the graph by heading to some of your favorite sites. Each site will be added to the graph with its associated trackers. As you visit more sites, the links between them grow, quickly creating a spaghetti monster with tangled lines. It perfectly illustrates which trackers are following you.
The only downside is that the new version doesn’t have the website logos of the old version. You can hover over each circle to reveal the site, but website favicons make it easy to see which sites are following you.
Trackography is your third visual tracking guide, this time with a more interactive take. Trackography, developed by the Tactical Technology Collective, is an open source project aimed at “lifting the veil on the global tracking industry” by visualizing the vast array of trackers that follow you on the Internet.
You can use Trackography to check:
- What companies are following you.
- The countries hosting the servers of these tracking companies.
- Country hosting the servers of the website you are visiting.
- Countries hosting the necessary network infrastructure to access these media servers and tracking companies.
- Learn more about how tracking companies treat your data in relation to their privacy policies.
Overall, Trackography is a great visual resource if you want to learn more about the flow of data tracking around the world and where you stand.
How to use trackography
Go to the Trackography website. Select your host country. Next, select a multimedia website that you want to connect to. Connection lines will immediately propagate from your host country, showing the path your data has taken, as well as the multiple locations you had no idea where your data was crossing.
6. Trace My Shadow
Okay, so Trace My Shadow doesn’t tell you specifically who’s stalking you. However, it gives you a detailed look at potential sources of tracking across a range of commonly used hardware, operating systems, mobile services, and online services.
The idea is that you can build a solid picture of where trackers are hiding and make positive changes to block those trackers. Unfortunately, Trace My Shadow stopped updating in 2019, so some details may be out of date.
That said, the information provided during the tests seemed to be absolutely correct and the advice he offers is still very relevant. Online trackers haven’t gone anywhere, of course, so they’re certainly not obsolete.
How to use Trace My Shadow
Go to the website and select Followed in the menu. Now scroll down and start adding options from the sidebar, starting with the type of computer you are using.
Every time you add a new device, subscription, or service, the number of potential traces increases.
How to block online trackers
Online trackers are an integral part of the Internet. But just because they’re built into the fabric of the service doesn’t mean you can’t take action to stop online trackers from tracking your activities.
Here are some of the best tools to block online trackers:
- uBlock Origin : block them trackers, malicious ad servers, malware, etc.
- HTTPS everywhere : Enable HTTPS to protect your data in transit.
- NoScript : block background scripts.
- Privacy Badger : block unwanted trackers and cookies.
- PixelBlock : Block tracking pixels in Gmail.
- Google activity controls : Control what Google remembers from your searches.
- deseat.me : delete your old online accounts with just one click.
- Tor browser : Uses built-in script blocking and onion routing protocol to protect your privacy.
- DuckDuckGo : search the internet without trackers taking note.
This list is not exhaustive, but it will put you on the right track to avoid trackers whenever possible.
Who is watching me online?
In recent years, online trackers and privacy breaches have made headlines repeatedly, and never for the right reasons. There are also a few names that repeatedly invade your privacy, such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon, although they are far from the only tech companies that track your online activity.
The graphic WhoTracksMe The following illustrates the percentage of trackers found online owned by each major tech company:
As you can see, Google is in the lead. As the world’s largest advertising company whose business model is based on tracking and cataloging online activity for resale, this should come as no surprise.