Block ads and prevent websites from tracking your online activity, with DoNotTrackPlus

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It’s not a secret, and hardly controversial, but no sooner than you visit a webpage than it instantly starts collecting information on your behavior and demographics (e.g. location), and trying to infer your interests.

If you want to block this activity, or if you merely want to know which scripts or services are tracking you, then DoNotTrackPlus, a free extension for Chrome, Firefox, IE and Safari, is for you.

DoNotTrackPlus is a browser tool that detects and blocks tracking scripts of analytics software, social networks, and data collection companies.

It will block some but not all ads (although it is effective against annoying popup ads), and can potentially make sites load faster.

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How DNT+ works:

DNT+ sets opt-out cookies for all tracking services that the DNT+ developers know of, it sends a so called “DoNotTrack HTTP header” which can instruct services not to track (if they choose to accept it), and finally it blocks activity which looks like tracking requests. It is kind of like a viruskiller; it stops known tracking services via cookies, and tries to stop others by observing what they do.

But note that DNT+ does NOT deliver anonymous browsing. The information your IP collects on the site you visit is unaffected by DNT+. If you want anonymous browsing, some of the these articles might help you.

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To track or not to track:

As a website owner I will say one thing: I am not a proponent of maximum anonymity online or offline. I do not fantasize about wearing a mask and hoodie when I buy my coffee at the local Starbucks, and my very livelihood and ability to keep writing this blog depends on the ads on this website (which is actually in question ever since I was hit by Google’s Panda update). One thing I do not understand is why it is desirable to block this data collection completely; it certainly helps me, as a website owner, to know what the reader typed in Google to get to my site, and that certain of my articles are more popular than others (if I collect data on what people are reading), and that my site is popular in a certain country or state, and that the ads on my site are more likely to be relevant to the readers’ interests.

That said, I understand that people feel that too much information is being collected on what they are doing online, and too many ads are being directed their way. If this is how you feel then this software is for you.

PROS: The argument for using DoNotTrackPlus:

  • It prevents tracking services from collecting data on your behavior on certain sites (again, I am not sure why this is so exciting).
  • It removes some ads, especially annoying popups / popunders
  • As a by-product of the second point above, sites will actually load faster
  • You can customize it to allow tracking from certain sites, on a site-by-site basis
  • You can still use social sharing buttons if and when you want. Simply click on said buttons once to activate them, then click again to share.

CONS: The argument for NOT using DoNotTrackPlus

  • Tracking is not necessarily bad. If I know your interests, I know what to serve you. And I do not mean just ads, but what content to create tomorrow. It works the same way in the offline world as well.
  • Some sites will not work properly if certain scripts are blocked. If this is the case, you can allow the site individually as mentioned above.
  • Some sites (like this one) depend on ads for their survival. I just had to put that in there Winking smile

DNT+ in action: see video below

The verdict:

This is excellent software that delivers what it promises very well. If privacy is what you seek then by all means you should check it out. However, you should be aware that DNT+ does not provide anonymous browsing.

If there one thing that I would wish for, though, it would be the ability to enable DNT+ in Chrome’s incognito mode WITHOUT having it enabled in  the normal browser mode (i.e. ON in incognito mode, but OFF in normal browsing mode); this is because in incognito mode I know that I am going to visit dubious or risky sites and sites that I do not want tracking me. For all other sites, I want a normal surfing experience thank you very much.

If you want another free alternative to DNT+ check out check out ‘Ghostery’ (and if you’ve had the opportunity to use both, please share your experiences in the comments section).

Visit  the DoNotTrackPlus page to get the latest version (Chrome, Firefox, IE and Safari).