Unless you belong to the insignificant minority which doesn’t mind those annoying pop up ads that force you to click on them whether you want it or not, you’re most certainly familiar with ad blocking solutions like Ad Blocker. Although some people are actually abandoning them, hundreds of millions of users still rely on these solutions on a daily basis to make their internet surfing smoother and as undisturbed as possible.
But did you know that most ad blockers do close to nothing against the abusive tracking methods most websites use? Unfortunately you’re painfully wrong if you think your ad blocker is the perfect tool for anonymity; as a matter of fact, they can even have the exact opposite effect.
Simple Blocking Solutions Are Not Enough
Don’t get us wrong, ad blockers are great if your purpose is to prevent yourself from getting a stroke by those more than disturbing advertisements. However, their functions are limited to blocking those ads they can detect, meaning that they cannot prevent any tracking methods big companies use. Furthermore, due to our unique browser fingerprints (which include plugin, time zone, language, screen resolution information etc.) the use of an ad blocker or any other extension, combined with a couple more identifiable details, can help websites build an even more accurate ‘profile’ of us, thus making us easily identifiable.
Also, let’s not forget that many websites earn their income with the help of those ads which want to target you, hence why some websites politely ask you to include them in your ad blocker’s white list or, in worse cases, won’t let you view the content unless you deactivate your ad blocker first.
To make things even more complicated than they already are, ad companies are becoming keener on disguising their ads so they can be easily missed by most ad blockers. Ad blockers are quick to block a flashing square banner in the sidebar of a website that is obviously an advertisement, but they aren’t clever enough yet to realize that a Facebook post shown in your News Feed is a flagrant advertorial. The problem is that not only ‘harmless’ advertisements can get an invisible cloak, but also those ads which can infect your computer with malware.
A Perceptual Ad Blocker and Other SolutionsIn order to stop this Facebook trick many advertising companies are pulling, a team of computer scientists developed a new ad blocker tool designed specifically to pick these hard-to-find targets. Simply called Perceptual Ad Blocker, this Chrome extension acts almost on a human-level, scanning a page and finding ads by identifying specific graphics (like ‘sponsored’ signs) as if a specialist was behind you looking for anything suspicious. Furthermore, this tool also works on a proof of concept stealth basis, meaning that it is able to work properly without being detected by websites which either politely or aggressively try to convince you to open ‘the pod bay doors’ of your ad blocker. However, since Perceptual Ad Blocker is yet another extension, it will involuntarily become your browser’s unique fingerprint. Thus the question of how it deals with user privacy still remains unanswered.
To prevent this unique app from helping the Dark Side without its consent and have as much privacy as possible, you can choose from many options. You can pick a number of safer search engines, log out from your social media once you are done or you can opt for wiping your browsing information (such as cookies, history, login details, etc.) before you close your session. Most importantly, you can always choose the safest and most trustworthy solution of all: a VPN. Although only some of these programs include built-in ad blockers, all of them provide safe connections via encrypted tunnels, protecting your entire computer or mobile device. VPNs anonymize your online activities, making it nearly impossible for ad tracking solutions to follow your traces around the internet, while your online identity is masked.