Yesterday, we posted about how companies like Google, Facebook, etc track your online activities and profit from the data generated. As mentioned, there are several tools to fix and prevent data collection. One of them is PrivacyFix.
Privacy Fix – Stop Websites From Collecting Your Data
Right now, Privacy Fix is available as an extension for Chrome and Firefox only. The company says they are working on providing plugins for Opera and Safari but there is no word about providing an add-on for Internet Explorer. Probably, because Internet Explorer 10 already has Do Not Track enabled and offers the Enhanced Protected Mode.
Getting PrivacyFix is easy. Go to the Google Chrome store and search for Privacy Fix. Upon being presented with the Privacy Fix screen, click on Add to Chrome. It takes around a minute for the extension to start working on your Chrome. It may say that it is downloading a large file so that users’ browsers are not able to send any information to Privacy Fix servers?!
We don’t collect any data from your use of PrivacyFix, unless you choose to send it to us. We don’t store IP addresses and we cannot and do not see or save your web browsing.
When I go ahead and install the extension, I get a message saying that PrivacyFix can access all the data it says it can prevent other websites from accessing. Check out the image below for what all it can access.
Suspicious? I am! When we choose not to send usage statistics to software companies, it is not that they do not keep a watch on what you are doing. Maybe, if you allow them, they will be collecting data more aggressively and when you deny, they do it passively, but they do collect data in either case.
Do you know the free antivirus we use confidently, has the knowledge of each and every file on our hard disks? Did we permit them to pry on our data?
The same applies to the Do Not Track requests. But not every company or website will honor such requests.
There is no way we can know if Privacy Fix really does not collect your data and/or retain it for different purposes. Please let me know if you know of a method that can prove Privacy Fix does not collect/retain your data.
On the contrary, there have been positive reviews for PrivacyFix on many sites. It does offer some options that, when exercised, reduce data collection by Google, Facebook and others. You can employ extensions that help you, by blocking social networks, ad networks and third-party company codes present on websites you visit. You can also opt out of Google to retain your Privacy.
Another method is to go for alternative search engines such as DuckDuckGo that do not track your Internet usage. But such measures provide only partial security. As of now, the entire network of adbots is pretty complex and I do not believe there is any easy way out. People cannot stop using the social media; they cannot stop using the Internet. The best method to thwart online data collection is to use browsers like TOR – The Onion Router. Such browsers confuse adbots that end up collecting garbage.
How Does Privacy Fix Work
According to an article in Daily Mail, “To make its estimate, PrivacyFix measures users’ past 60 days of activity on Google, extrapolates that to a year, and then uses a value-per-search estimate”.
Mr. Brock, the founder of PrivacyChoice that created Privacy Fix, admits that the estimates are approximated. He adds that the main function of Privacy Fix is to help users understand the quid pro quo involved with the uses of the services. When you click on the PrivacyFix icon on Chrome or Firefox, a new tab opens. It loads PrivacyFix the same way it loaded it for the first time.
Then it presents:
- Facebook Privacy: You can customize some or all of them but disabling activities like disallowing third-party websites from collecting your ‘likes’ will not allow you to see who among your friends visited and liked that website. Choose carefully!
- Google Issues: You are required to sign in (That, in a way, means giving another application access to your Google Account). Once in, you can opt out of search history. I had to log in two-three times to check this and ultimately gave up as it was not ‘fixing’ the search history. Anyway, my search history is always off because I keep on running searches to check the global page-rank of my websites. It is here you can block Google tracking while disabling Google widgets on websites. I will not, however, recommend turning off Google widgets as it may prevent certain websites from loading properly.
The image shows how the options are presented to you when you use the PrivacyFix extension.
In what seems to be quite unbelievable, the third screen (after Facebook and Google) showed me a plethora of companies tracking me. PrivacyFix says those companies have installed tracking cookies on my computer. I do not remember even visiting these websites: IBM, 247, 33, BTB, Y+, AOL, Share-This, etc. to name a few. See the image below for a complete picture of what PrivacyFix says have installed tracking cookies on my computer.
If this is true, will Privacy Fix give me evidence to sue these companies, for placing tracking cookies uninvited on my computer? When I clicked on FIX, it gave me a message saying FIXED. Pretty fast deletion of all the tracking cookies!
The next screen provided me with a list of websites I visit. Tumblr and Wikia too were listed. I heard about Tumblr, but never felt interested enough to visit it. And what is Wikia?
The final screen offers you a Health-Bar that you can add to your browser. PrivacyFix says only your URL data and data about trackers attempting to collect data is sent; but they did not specify where this data is sent. I presume it goes to the PrivacyFix servers, as it again stresses on its statement saying it does not collect any IP address or other information.
How Reliable Is Privacy Fix?
I do not know for sure. At one point, I removed the extension and reinstalled it when the health bar stopped responding. The entire process again started and it again showed me, tracking cookies from some companies even though I had ‘fixed’ it when I ran the extension initially. I wonder how they got to my machine as I did not visit any website between the removal and reinstallation of the PrivacyFix extension. Did Privacy Fix fail to clean the following tracking cookies in the initial attempt? It would be great if any of you could explain this part to me.
Keep in mind that nothing has been developed so far that would prevent and fix your privacy completely. Maybe to some point…YES, but completely… NO! Also, with all kinds of tracking blocked, it would be more of a stripped down Internet – one where free stuff will cease to exist!
Given the situation, PrivacyFix seems to be your best bet for now!
Here is a video from PrivacyFix telling you how it works. I would recommend you install the extension and check out its function for yourself. Do create a system restore point before installing it – it is always a good idea to do so.
Do let us know if you have had any experience with PrivacyFix.