What is the safest way to use the internet? Not use the internet. Otherwise, whenever you use the internet you are being tracked by advertisers, and subject to attack by hackers, criminals, and authorities. If you want privacy, don’t use the internet. ‘Off the grid’ means off the grid for a reason.
Last week I read an interesting article that is bad advice. The premise is attractive, though.
The Only App You Need to Protect Your Privacy
Wow. All you need is one application and your privacy is protected. Uh huh. If only. That privacy advice is just wrong.
It’s happened to all of us: We look at a pair of very expensive shoes online for half a millisecond (you know, because dreams!), then we’re magically greeted with ads for that exact same pair on all of our social media platforms for weeks. It’s not only annoying; it’s pretty creepy, too! But now there’s an app to stop that
If only that would be the end of privacy breaches and online tracking. It. Is. Not.
The app in question is a new iPhone app from DuckDuckGo. Basically, it’s Safari with a few more ad blocker and privacy options which makes it a good choice if you use a browser for all your online activities. The DuckDuckGo browser is worthless if you use other applications, or a Mac, or a Windows PC, or if you’re connected to the internet.
Our access to the internet has too many moving parts for a single application to be that useful at curtailing privacy offenses from advertisers. Even if all you use is DuckDuckGo’s app when connected to the internet, advertisers and trackers still have your IP address so they know it’s you online even if you don’t say who you are.
Don’t get me wrong. This is a good deal since DuckDuckGo is free. And it will help reduce some of that online tracking that works to build a personal dossier about your activities.
Today we’re taking a major step to simplify online privacy with the launch of fully revamped versions of our browser extension and mobile app, now with built-in tracker network blocking, smarter encryption, and, of course, private search – all designed to operate seamlessly together while you search and browse the web. Our updated app and extension are now available across all major platforms – Firefox, Safari, Chrome, iOS, and Android – so that you can easily get all the privacy essentials you need on any device with just one download.
Try it. You might like it. But your online activities will still be tracked by advertisers and other offenders in other ways.
I like DuckDuckGo but I’ve always had an issue with the relevance of their search results. In that regard, Google’s results seem, well, better and more relevant. So, what if you want to use Google but don’t want the search engine giant to follow you online? Sorry. But you could use StartPage.com which uses Google but strips out some of what Google uses to follow you online.
StartPage has a Safari extension which is installed easily so the URL search bar defaults to StartPage instead of Google.
You could also add a virtual private network (VPN) to the DuckDuckGo app and extension to enhance privacy and help reduce trackers, but the real problem isn’t just browser usage, it’s the pervasive nature of trackers. Most websites use Google Analytics (my site does not). That’s a tracker. Most websites use a cookie (my site does not). That’s a tracker. Even applications you use on your Mac will track you via Google Analytics and other methods so it isn’t just a browser that does the deed.
Apple could help enhance customer privacy and security with an iCloud VPN or more defensive options in Safari, iOS, and macOS, but our favorite Mac maker also gets a few billion dollars in pure profit from Google to keep the search engine as the default in Safari.
Mixed messages much, Apple.