Tag Archives: Chrome

DoNotTrackPlus Gives The Boot To Nosy Internet Trackers

imageSeveral weeks back, I received an invitation from CNET to join a dating website designed especially for those that are 50 years old – or more. OK, it wasn’t exactly an invitation  – it was, in fact, an ad inserted into one of my subscribed  CNET newsletters.

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So what – no big deal you may be thinking. But from my perspective, it is a big deal – here’s why.

In the years that I’ve been Internet connected – 18 years or more – I’ve never referred to, or listed, my actual age (other than to make the point, from time to time, that I’ve been at the computing game for a very long time). Nor, have I ever referred to my marital status (other than in a humorous way in re-commenting on a reader’s initial comment – perhaps).

As it turns out – I am over 50, and I am a bachelor. So, in reality, CNET targeted me precisely. The question is – how did CNET know to target me so effectively and efficiently?

A partial answer is – CNET spies. The fact that CNET spies on site visitors is hardly news. Nor is it news, that the majority of commercial websites engage in spying on site visitors.

SPYING – such a loaded word. Instead of “spying”, let me use a series of descriptors handily thrown around by those engaged in spying on my privacy.

Predictive analytics, customer profiling, customer segmentation, predictive modeling, lifestyle clustering……. all done for my own benefit, of course (according to the intruders). There, now I feel better about being profiled, segmented, and clustered. Not!

I’m certainly not a Luddite and, I understand the cost/benefit associated with using the Internet. But, the rules (such as they were) have changed dramatically in the last year or two. The Data Miner is now on the scene, and gobbling up personal information at a prodigious rate.

Webopedia definition – The two most common forms of data miners are data mining programs that an organization uses to analyze its own data to look for significant patterns, and spyware programs that are uploaded to a user’s computer to monitor the user’s activity and send the data back to the organization, typically so that the organization can send the user targeted advertising.

In a real sense then, it isn’t so much that CNET is aware that I’m 50 plus, or that I’m single that is at issue – since CNET could not/did not develop the specific information I referred to earlier. Instead, this information was undoubtedly culled by any one, or more, of the data miners that have infected the Internet and, using “predictive modeling” rolled out a “best guess” that I’m in my fifties and single.

And that makes me feel not only “profiled, segmented, and clustered” but, as if I’ve been “diced and sliced”. I have, in essence, become a product. A product, I’m afraid, that’s closing in on its “best before date”.    Smile

A product that LiveIntent, working on behalf of CNET, targeted based on (according to the company’s site), gender, age, geo, browser, and time of day. I should point out, that according to LiveIntent’s promotional material, the foregoing “is just the tip of the iceberg”. Of that, I have no doubt.

The other side of the coin is – and there is another side of the coin – Internet users (by and large), have been trained to accept a tradeoff in order to get access to “free” information and services. In return – they buy into the condition that each commercial site they visit has the right to spy and build a profile on their browsing habits – the type of sites they visit and revisit, time spent on sites, their shopping and spending habits, their political views, their marital status (it appears), and much more. Some tradeoff!

In the long term, the personal information gathered will be sold, bartered and traded (to bypass the disclaimer – “we will not sell your information”), so that it can be used in multiple ways that generate profit. And, that’s the upside. If there’s one thing the Internet has taught us, it’s – if information can be abused – it will be abused.

If you’re like me, and you staunchly oppose the collection of your personal information, then you’re likely aware of any number of Browser tools which claim to shutout nosy data miners. In fact, I’ve reviewed many of these tools here.

One free tool which I haven’t reviewed until now (although, I wish I had earlier) is DoNotTrackPlus – a free Browser add-on from Abine (the online privacy company).

In the several weeks I’ve been running with DoNotTrackPlus, I’ve found that this add-on lives up to it’s reputation for excellence.

The following screen captures emphasize just how pervasive online tracking has become. And, more importantly, how DoNotTrackPlus puts the boots to these invasive parasitic data miners.

A selected result, from earlier today, while reading my local newspaper online.

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Cumulative results since installing this add-on. You’ll note, the rather staggering tracking company total.

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Abine’s Internet privacy view:

There is a huge difference between sharing personal information and having it taken. That’s why we’ve created Internet tools and services for those who want a say in how and when their information is used. And since we think exercising your right to online privacy should be easy, our solutions allow regular people just like you to regain and maintain control over their personal information – while continuing to enjoy all the wonderful things the web has to offer.

If you find yourself agreeing with this concept – and, you want a say in how and when your privileged information is used – take DoNotTrackPlus for a test drive. I suspect that you’ll be reluctant, in future, to surf the Internet without DoNotTrackPlus in place.

Fast facts:

Free tool that puts you back in control of your information.

Stops more than 600 trackers.

When you visit a website DoNotTrackPlus blocks tracking technologies from:

· Seeing and collecting your web activity such as what sites you visit and what you view.

· Putting cookies on your machine that would continue to store information about your Internet browsing.

· Displaying ads with tracking capability, including the annoying ads that seem to follow you everywhere you go.

Compatible with Mac or PC for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer.

Automatically updates to catch new trackers.

Download at the developer’s site: Abine

Click on the graphic below to view a video of DoNotTrackPlus in action.

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Additional information is available on the company’s FAQ site.

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Filed under Browser add-ons, Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Online Privacy, Safari

Update WebMail Notifier To Version 2.8 – Fixes Broken Gmail Script

imageAbove all my Firefox and Chrome add-ons, WebMail Notifier stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of my productivity or, lack of the same if it  stops working – as it did last night. The problem was restricted to Gmail (thankfully), and Hotmail and Yahoo Mail were unaffected – still, what a pain!

Geeks, just like everyone else, turn to Google, or….., in the hope that others have experienced the same problem and, a solution has been posted.

Long story short –

Google has initiated a number of changes in Gmail’s log-in address (which they have done in the past), that broke the log-in script in WebMail Notifier. Apparently, this Google rollout is taking place over several days – so, it’s possible that if a user has more than one Gmail account, one or more may be impacted, but not others.

I found a number of manual solutions to this problem – all of which worked. However, if you are currently dealing with this issue – you can avoid all the hassle by simply downloading version 2.8 of WebNotifier, which corrects the problem.

Download at: WebMail Notifier

Kudos to the add-on developer for jumping on this quickly.

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Filed under Chrome Add-ons, downloads, Email, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Tech Net News, Windows Tips and Tools

Flash Cookies – Spyware By Any Other Name

imageI first wrote on the issue of Flash cookies back in September 2009, and since then, I’ve watched as these obnoxious web trackers and privacy invaders multiply like a virus. Based on the number of questions I continue to get on the Flash cookie issue, it’s apparent – confusion reigns when it comes to this underhanded privacy threat.

One of the better forum comments I’ve seen referencing Flash cookies:

“I think many people may not realize how serious it is. In many ways, I see it as the virtual equivalent of dumpster diving or taping together a shredded document. It is deliberately ignoring a data owners deletion of data by an entity that has no business doing so.”

This practice of  web sites dropping Flash cookies onto your computer, which occurs without your knowledge or permission, is akin to hacking – according to some in the security community. Frankly, I agree.

Continuing developments in tracking technologies, and a complete disregard for fundamental privacy rights, should be a major topic of conversation in the security community – until such time as the issue has been resolved in favor of consumers.

In the meantime, we’re on our own. It’s up to us, as individual consumers, to take the appropriate steps to safeguard our privacy (as best we can), while interacting with the Internet.

Here’s what we’re up against – and, this is just one small example.

From Disinformation.com

McDonald’s, CBS, Mazda, Microsoft Sued For Tracking Internet Users’ Histories

In a complaint filed Tuesday with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Sonal Bose alleges that McDonald’s and the other companies “acted in concert with Interclick,” to mine users’ Web surfing history for marketing purposes. “Defendants circumvented the privacy and security controls of consumers who, like plaintiff, had configured their browsers to prevent third-party advertisers from monitoring their online activities,” Bose alleges.

The lawsuit alleges that the companies violated the federal computer fraud law, wiretap law and other statutes. She is seeking class-action status. This lawsuit comes several weeks after Bose sued Interclick for allegedly using history-sniffing technology and Flash cookies to track her online activity.

History-sniffing technology exploits a vulnerability in browsers to discover the Web sites users previously visited. Researchers from the University of California, San Diego recently brought the technique to light when they published a paper explaining the technique and naming 46 Web sites where history-sniffing technology was being deployed. In at least some cases, ad company Interclick reportedly used the technology without the publishers’ knowledge.

Bose also says in her complaint that she believes that the defendants used Flash cookies for tracking purposes. Flash cookies are stored in a different place in the browser than HTTP cookies, and therefore, require additional effort to delete.

Flash cookie quick facts:

They never expire

Can store up to 100 KB of information compared to a text cookie’s 4 KB.

Internet browsers are not aware of those cookies.

LSO’s usually cannot be removed by browsers.

Using Flash they can access and store highly specific personal and technical information (system, user name, files,…).

Can send the stored information to the appropriate server, without user’s permission.

Flash applications do not need to be visible.

There is no easy way to tell which flash-cookie sites are tracking you.

Shared folders allow cross-browser tracking – LSO’s work in every flash-enabled application

No user-friendly way to manage LSO’s, in fact it’s incredible cumbersome.

Many domains and tracking companies make extensive use of flash-cookies.

If you value your privacy, then without a doubt you need to control these highly invasive objects, and if you are a Firefox user there is a solution – BetterPrivacy – a free Firefox add-on.

From the BetterPrivacy page:

“Better Privacy serves to protect against not delectable, long-term cookies, a new generation of ‘Super-Cookie’, which silently conquered the internet.

This new cookie generation offers unlimited user tracking to industry and market research. Concerning privacy Flash- and DOM Storage objects are most critical.

This add-on was made to make users aware of those hidden, never expiring objects and to offer an easy way to get rid of them – since browsers are unable to do that for you”.

In the following screen capture (click to expand to original), you’ll notice BetterPrivacy has deleted a cumulative total of 6188 Super Cookies.

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The Options and Help tab (shown in the following screen shot), will allow you to choose specific deletion methods. You should consider selecting “Disable Ping Tracking”, which will prohibit sites from following you as you surf the Net.

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Download at: Mozilla

For a more detailed breakdown on flash cookies, and the danger they represent to personal privacy, checkout The Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Google Chrome users can take advantage of the Click&Clean Extension (works with Firefox as well).

The following screen capture of Click&Clean’s Options menu, illustrates the application’s ability to deal with Flash cookies.

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Fast facts:

Delete your browsing history
Clear records from your download history
Remove cookies and Empty cache
Delete temporary files
Remove Flash Local Shared Objects (LSO)
Delete private data when Firefox closes
Automatically close all windows/tabs
Clean up your hard drives and Free up more disk space – including secure file deletion
Launch external applications, like CCleaner, Wise Disk Cleaner etc. on Windows – or Janitor, BleachBit, etc. on Linux

Download the Firefox version at: Mozilla

Download the Chrome version at: The Chrome Web store

You can read a full review of this application – Clean Up With Click&Clean Firefox and Chrome Extension, on this site.

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Filed under Browser add-ons, Chrome Add-ons, downloads, Firefox Add-ons, Flash Cookies, Freeware, Privacy, Windows Tips and Tools

Not Using Google Shortcuts? Here’s What You’re Missing

The following article was originally posted September 6, 2010.

Comments from readers:

I have to say that is such a great plugin. It is so customizable and puts all the Google services at one place. I can even remove the separate plugins I have for Gmail and reader.

Great find, Bill. I’m going to be putting this to good use!

Looks fabulous Bill. I removed the Google Toolbar from Firefox as it refused to untick some checkboxes, so this could be a great substitute.

imageDespite my personal view that Google trashes personal privacy rights, I continue to use a fairly large number of Google services, including Gmail, Google Reader, Maps, Calendar, and so on.

Until now, I’ve used my Bookmarks menu in Firefox to access these services, since this method is very convenient. But, when I came across the Google Shortcuts extension for Firefox, all that changed.

An  add-on that can display over 160 Google services as buttons next to the address bar, or in a one-click popup menu, is a sure fire winner with me. And Google Shortcuts for Firefox, or Chrome, can do that – and more.

Adding this extension to either Firefox, or Chrome, is accomplished in the usual manner that most of us are familiar with (you’ll find the download links at the end of this article).

Following installation, I jumped right in – setting up the extension to best serve my particular needs.

You can place your most commonly used Google services as buttons beside the address bar in Firefox, as the following screen capture indicates. This seems like an awkward way to display – eats up a lot of screen real estate.

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The option of using a dropdown menu option instead, as I’ve done here, is a better alternative – at least for me.

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The number of services available is really astonishing. In fact, there are services listed here that I was completely unaware of. Hopefully, G+ will be added shortly.

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Additional control options are available on the advanced options setting screen.

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Requirements: Firefox 2.0 – 6.*, or Chrome

Download at: Mozilla or Google Chrome Extensions

For super convenience, this is one of the better Firefox add-ons I’ve come across – I highly recommend it.

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Filed under Browser add-ons, Chrome, Chrome Add-ons, Cloud Computing Applications, downloads, Firefox, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Google, Google Chrome, Google Software, Interconnectivity, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Clean Up With Click&Clean Firefox and Chrome Extension

imageIf there’s one thing regular readers here seem to agree on it’s – CCleaner is an awesome application. You can count me in the “awesome application” appreciation group. This free system cleaner is still my “go to” application for simple system cleanup.

CCleaner users know, that running this venerable utility can help keep a system clean by emptying the Recycle Bin, Temporary Setup Files, Downloaded Program Files, Temporary Internet Files, Old Chkdsk Files, Temporary Files, Temporary Offline Files, Offline Files, and more.

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Generally, I would run CCleaner once a day – if I could remember to do so. I’ve now discovered a “no need to remember” way to launch CCleaner automatically, whenever I close my Browsers – either Firefox, or Chrome.

Click&Clean is a free Firefox and Chrome extension which not only does a major cleanup job on Browser activity in its own right (see fast facts), but the application can be set to launch CCleaner automatically (for a deeper and more secure cleaning), on Browser shut down. Additional external applications (rather than CCleaner), which can be set to run automatically include – Wise Disk Cleaner Free, Computer Janitor, and BleachBit.

Setup is simple and straightforward. From within the options menu, you can choose which external application you wish to run.

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For convenience, you can add an extension icon to the Browser’s navigation Toolbar, as illustrated below.

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Fast facts:

Delete your browsing history
Clear records from your download history
Remove cookies and Empty cache
Delete temporary files
Remove Flash Local Shared Objects (LSO)
Delete private data when Firefox closes
Automatically close all windows/tabs
Clean up your hard drives and Free up more disk space – including secure file deletion
Launch external applications, like CCleaner, Wise Disk Cleaner etc. on Windows – or Janitor, BleachBit, etc. on Linux

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Linux, Mac

Download the Firefox version at: Mozilla

Download the Chrome version at: The Chrome Web store

The Chrome version has several additional features not available in the Firefox version.

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WordPress: This is your 2,407th post. Woohoo!

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Filed under Browser add-ons, Browser Plug-ins, Browsers, Chrome Add-ons, downloads, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Google Chrome, Linux, Mac, Software, Ubuntu, Windows Tips and Tools

Updated: An IT Professional’s Must Have Firefox and Chrome Add-ons

imagePersonally, when I need advice I go straight to the experts . And, given the overwhelming reach and the complexity of today’s IT environment, I find myself, more and more, reaching out for additional information.

I have a terrific advantage though, since regular readers here tend to be in the IT game or, are extreme high level computer users possessing a wealth of techno recommendations. So, quite often, I don’t have to go very far to fill in the blanks in my own knowledge base. How cool is that?

Regular reader Georg L., an IT Professional from Vienna, Austria, who’s experience ranges from the days of DOS to the present, is always ready to “fill in the blanks” – as he did last year, when he generously put together a list of Browser extensions (for both Firefox and Chrome), which he has personally installed to boost Browser security, and in some cases, to increase Browser functionality.

Recently, I reposted this comprehensive list of add-ons which led to the following note from Georg – in response to the ever-evolving threat scenario, some changes have occurred in the meantime, and readers should update accordingly.

My current list of add-ons to Firefox 4.01:

Adblock Plus 1.3.8

Better Privacy 1.5.1

BitDefender QuickScan 0.9.9.3

Disconnect – A browser extension that stops major third parties and search engines from tracking the webpages you go to and searches you do

Download Statusbar 0.9.8   –   a very nice one to make downloads easier

Dr. Web anti-virus link checker 1.0.23   –  does what it says

Extended Copy Menu (fix version) 1.6.1c   –   another little helper

Fireclam 0.6.6   –   scans downloads for viruses

Flagfox 4.1.2

Flashblock 1.5.14.2

FoxyProxy Standard 2.22.6

Ghostery 2.5.3

HTTPS-Everywhere 0.9.6

Key Scrambler 2.8.0.1   –   a must for online banking

NextPlease 0.9.2   –   fast navigation over next and previous pages

NoScript 2.1.0.5

Optimize Google 0.78.2   –   removes ads and spam from Google search results

Padlock 0.1.2   –   padlock URL bar icon

PDF Download 3.0.0.2

Perspectives 4.1

Search Engine Security 1.2.0

ShowIP 0.8.19   –   shows the IP address of the current page in the status bar

SkipScreen 0.5.21amo   –   not really helpful, but still there

SmoothWheel (AMO) 0.45.6.20100202.1   –   scrolls the document smoothly when scrolling the mouse wheel

TACO with Abine 3.6.5   –   an absolute must these days

My current list of extensions to Chrome 13.0.772.0 in their current iterations:

AdBlock 2.4.6

BitDefender QuickScan 0.9.9.95

Disconnect – A browser extension that stops major third parties and search engines from tracking the webpages you go to and searches you do

Docs PDF/Power Point Viewer (by Google) – 3.5

FastestChrome – Browse Faster – 4.06

FlashBlock 0.9.31

Ghostery 2.3.0

Google Analytics Opt-out 0.9.0

Google Dictionary 2.0.5

Keep My Opt-Outs 1.0.10

Mini Google Maps 1.0.2

Secbrowsing 1.7

SmoothScroll  1.0.1

Ultimate Chrome Flag 0.3.7

Ultimate Google Docs Viewer 0.8.4.7

Wikipedia Companion 1.7.0

Georg is an accomplished professional and I can safely say, this list of Browser add-ons will resonate with readers who recognize the need to elevate Browser security.

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Filed under Chrome Add-ons, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Internet Safety Tools, Privacy, Productivity Software, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection