How to find out who is following you online and how to stop them easily

If you've become hyper-aware of internet snooping and having your data collected without your consent, you've come to the right place. Here we will tell you how to stop yourself from being tracked, or how to limit it anyway.

Who collects your data and why?

First, understand that “data collection” is a vague concept. The data may include personal information such as email address and social security number. It can also be your internet activity, including the pages you visit and even metadata like When you these pages. Emails, online purchases, medical information, and even financial details such as a credit card number are considered details, too.

And for those who collect this data and why, there are several different culprits. Hackers can use methods like phishing to trick you and steal your data. But there are also ISPs that are allowed in the US to track your internet activity and use it as a source of income. They collect anonymous logs from users and sell that "data" to marketers who use it to develop targeted online ads.

Your internet activity can also be tracked by cookies - small pieces of text that are downloaded and stored by your web browser. These are used by most websites and services to log the user into online habits, which, again, is data that is then used to personalize advertisements. It is also used to improve the performance of the internet in general. Even mobile apps and browser extensions can track your activity. Your data is the new gold and they want it.

How to find out who is tracking you and stop it

Extensions and plugins

There are several browser extensions that claim to help you find out who is tracking your web surfacing habits, but many of them invasively track yourself. The following ones are recommended as safe to use because they either help protect you and let you know who is tracking you - while not tracking yourself, or if they do, it's minimally so.

  • HTTPS everywhere: visiting a web server a website that does not support encryption by default? This plugin makes it use encryption, which helps protect your online purchases, payment details, and web surfing from intruders who eavesdrop for theft purposes.
  • Privacy Badger: This extension, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), works on Opera, Firefox and Chrome. It controls third parties and ad networks that try to track you using cookies and fingerprints and can even block them automatically.
  • Disable: disable, an extension available for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera, aims to visually show you which sites are tracking your activities in real time. Invisible trackers that track you can also be easily blocked with a disable.
  • Tag NoScript Security Suite: Maintained by Edward Snowden, this browser plugin for Firefox and other Mozilla-based browsers can disable active content, including JavaScript, which can be used to track your browsing activity. You can also specify which domains to trust and whitelist.
  • Blur: Blur, available for Firefox and Chrome, can be used as a password manager and generator, ad blocker, and encryption. We also like it to use the "masquerade card" in the premium version. These one-time virtual cards are used by online merchants to place your credit card details.
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What else can you do?

Remember, it is very difficult to avoid data collection and surveillance. If you use Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter, remember most of these online services track you and don't even end-to-end encrypted. Every big tech company — Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Apple — has recently been caught using the site to listen in on user conversations recorded with their apps and assistants.

Browsers

There is no way around this: browsers are in the data center. Ad networks track you to websites, the ISP logs the pages you visit, and hackers try to use unsecured Wi-Fi connections and unencrypted websites to successfully access you and collect data. To protect yourself from all of this, use a secure web browser such as Tor on your desktop and mobile devices.

  • Tor Browser: Tor is like a regular browser, but it allows you to browse the web anonymously. However, while you can use Tor for anything, video streaming can be slow and some plugins (like flash) are disabled. You can also use the mobile version of Tor, Tor for Android on the Google Play Store. There is an Orbot app for Android and an Onion Browser for iOS app, too. They are both trusted by leading security researchers.

Поисковые системы

Google, Yahoo!, and Bing all collect your data to provide a "personalized" experience. To prevent this, it is recommended to use an alternative search engine that does not record search history and blocks tracker ads. Examples include DuckDuckGo, Qwant, and Homepage.

Virtual private networks

A virtual private network is perhaps the best way to create a secure tunnel and mask your presence on the internet. Data packets are encrypted before being sent to the server, hiding your IP address and your location. Because alone, the use of a VPN is prohibited in some countries. If it's legal in your country, like the US or the UK, you have plenty to choose from.

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Premium VPN services are often more reliable, as free services can track and sell your data, defeating the point of using a VPN for privacy. Our favorites include NordVPN, Private Internet Access, ExpressVPN, and TorGuard.

Encrypted Applications

Finally, it uses encrypted applications to keep your online correspondence between you and the person you intended to view your messages.

  • Signal: Signal is considered the most secure messaging app when used correctly. Available for iOS and Android and desktop, this is end-to-end encrypted and does not collect any metadata. It's also open source, so anyone can check out the code.
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