218; 12020 H.E.

Abstract
Internet is a great place for content and cat videos, but also really bad stuff, like traumatizing advertisements, endless user data collection, and straight-up spying. This page is a soft introduction into some tools, services, browser extensions you can use to get back control of your online presence.

Call it an internet usage etiquette. – Matthew, my friend

Adblockers

Allowing people use the Internet without an adblocker is a violation of Geneva Conventions. What an adblocker does is block ads and those noisy webpage elements that jump at you or show unholy pictures. More on that here.

There is an adblocker that’s called AdBlock, however, after years of using it, I now prefer uBlock. It just seems to be faster and simpler to use. The extensions automatically block all known advertising sources. You can also block specific elements manually.

Trackers

Browser tracking is one of those evil things that came into web couple of years ago. Essentially, every time you visit a website, it saves a small piece of data in your browser (cookie), where later it will allow any other website to track your browsing history and activity. Cookies are essential for services, as it helps you to stay logged in and make your browsing experience more comfortable. As everything, it gets misused pretty often.

Privacy Badger automatically learns to block invisible trackers. Some random websites out of nowhere should not be able to know what pages you looked at and where you’re heading off next.

Browser scripts

JavaScript is one of the saddest technological developments that we wholeheartedly embraced. JS is code that runs in your browser. Almost all of the buttons you clicked, forms filled, animations played, and even pages loaded is JavaScript. It’s so critical for everything that it gets abused more than anything else. Any website can run arbitrary code in your browser, which can create any number of questionable actions executed on your behalf.

Device fingerprint, unstoppable tracking, browser sniffing, and etc. exist because any random code can run on your machine without you even knowing it.

NoScript pre-emptively blocks scripts running in your browser. You will get a manual but full control of all code sources, where you will be able to allow or block specific resources. It is a bit inconvenient the first time you use it, as websites tend to over-rely on JS just for loading. Couple of days in, I allowed some specific JS sources and it never bothered me again.

IP Tracking

By the definition of how we do networking, every web resource is able to see the origin’s (user’s) IP address, thus the unique web identifier of the Internet. It takes no effort to trace IP back to ISPs, precise locations, and even individuals. The most popular way of "hiding" your IP address is using VPN services.

This is how naked connections looks like, it may not even be secured and there might be an eavesdropper in the middle!

                                 ┌────────────────┐
┌─────┐     ──> Your IP          │                │
│ You ├──────────────────────┬───┤  THE INTERNET  │
└─────┘      <── Data        │   │                │
                             │   └────────────────┘
                             │
                             │
                       ┌─────┴────────┐
                       │ Eavesdropper │
                       └──────────────┘

VPN is basically accessing the internet goods through a secure middle-man that ideally keeps your identity secret and takes the main hit of being exposed to everything out there

                                 ┌────────────────┐
┌─────┐     ┌─────┐ ──> VPN IP   │                │
│ You ├─────┤ VPN ├──────────┬───┤  THE INTERNET  │
└─────┘     └─────┘ <── Data │   │                │
                             │   └────────────────┘
                             │
                             │
                       ┌─────┴────────┐
                       │ Eavesdropper │
                       └──────────────┘

You were probably bombarded by millions of different VPN ads, like NordVPN, ProtonVPN, BearVPN? There are some you should NOT use. Like UFO VPN, they made a promise of not storing the original plain data and keep no logs (user activity traces). They did.

I personally would recommend Mullvad VPN. It is the fastest VPN out there that deploys latest VPN standards (Wireguard) and most privacy-respectful. It’s priced at ridiculously fair $5/mo. No personal data. Creating a mullvad "account" (just a collection of numbers) takes no time. You can actually pay for mullvad access with cash. Anonymously mail cash with your account number and it’s loaded.