For some time now - certainly months and maybe even years - I have read a technology question and answer column in my Saturday paper, a sort of technological agony aunt. Most of the time the questions have been beyond my understanding so you can imagine what my feelings were about the answers. But a question - or, more accurately, an answer - in this last column had me thinking. It was about anonymity on the net.
I have always been fairly good about protecting my personal data. I use different passwords for different sites and change them from time to time, even if not as often as is recommended. I don't write the passwords down or record them anywhere. (It does occur to me that if anything happened to me, people trying to sort out my financial affairs might have a bit of a problem and I must give that matter some thought.) On social media sites such as this, I try to restrict the amount of personal information I divulge. All in all, I was pretty complacent.
One thing that has never troubled me, despite the views of some folk, is the way store loyalty cards collect information about my shopping habits. I really could not care less if some oick in Cleckheaton or Cowdenbeath or even Dusseldorf gets to know that I buy white potatoes and So-and-so's toothpaste. I would say which toothpaste but I can't remember! BUT with all the kerfuffle there has been over the past year or so, I am just a little concerned that some Government agency might be spying on my surfing habits. It's not that I take part in any dubious electronic conversations or download child porn (or even adult porn); it's just that I see no reason for any Tom, Dick or Harry to invade my space.
So the answer I read in Saturday's paper interested me. The expert (for I assume he is such) recommended testing a free app. I have now installed it - and I have been amazed at how many research cookies or such are sent at me when I visit different sites. I've so far blocked Gomez, Audience Science, Scorecard Research, Webtrends, Unanimis and others - and feel much better for doing so. The app was simple to install but I have to say it is not very good on intuitive tweeking, although I seem to have managed to some extent.
The app is called Ghostery if you are interested. I don't know about other browsers, but in Firefox one goes to Tools>Add-Ons and type Ghostery in the search box. But I accept no liability if you do decide to try it.