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Ad Blocking Software: What It Is, The Benefits, And How To Use It

Nobody wants their online experience cluttered with irrelevant advertisements. Recently, TechCrunch published a beginner's guide to ad blocking software. If you are unfamiliar with what the software is, does, and its benefits, then this primer is for you.

Basically, ad blocking software prevents your web browser from downloading and displaying unwanted advertisements. Consumers use it for several reasons, including performance, privacy, and security for a better online experience:

"Performance. The average page has dozens of ad tags, and ad providers are typically built with no regard to performance (loading hundreds of tags, images, megabytes of video, etc.), so preventing all of this from loading drastically speeds up the website."

"Privacy. Most ad networks and tracking systems (like Google Analytics) collect information about user behavior and pages visited, which can lead to privacy issues. Ad blockers stop all of this and make it easy to browse privately."

Security is a concern because some advertising networks (e.g., AOL, Yahoo, Huffington Post) have been compromised with computer viruses, or malware, onto unsuspecting consumers' devices. Some malware targeted mobile devices. It has occurred often enough that the term malvertising is now used. Malvertising is very bad because you don't have to click on annything in order for your computer to get infected.

During the last 7+ years, this blog covered a variety of technologies (e.g., cookies, “zombie cookies,” Flash cookies, “zombie e-tags,” super cookies, “zombie databases” on mobile devices, canvas fingerprinting, etc.) companies use to persistently track consumers online without their knowledge nor consent; and to circumvent consumers' efforts to maintain privacy online. So, you want to do what you can to avoid or minimize the tracking.

Consumers have plenty of choices for which ad-blocking software to use. As TechCrunch reported:

"Apple’s iOS has recently allowed for content blocking extensions in its Safari browser, so now it’s possible to block ads on mobile websites, as well. Both iOS and Android also allow for third-party browsers that can come with ad-blocking abilities built in."

You can't block ads that appear within a mobile (or desktop) app, so that maybe another reason to use your web browser instead of a mobile app (which is usually a piece of a website). I happen to use, with the Firefox web browser, the Privacy Badger tool from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I am delighted with it. Yes, some websites won't display content when you block their ads, but most do.

For private online searches, I use the DuckDuckGo search engine instead of Google, Bing, and Yahoo. What ad-blocking software do you use? If not, do you plan to start using it?


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Chanson de Roland

I am auditioning a new and powerful extension for Firefox, uMatrix, that not only blocks advertisements, it allows the user to block any class of requests made to his web browser, such as scripts, iFrames, ads, Facebook, etc. However uMatrix does require some manipulation, because, in its default setting, where everything is black-listed, it will break a lot of websites. uMatrix does given you very fine grained control to permit the request needed for the website at issue to work, but that does take a bit of tinkering. Or you can white-list everything, black-listing only the websites or browser requests that you don't want to run your web browser. uMatrix is very powerful software but requires the patience to tolerate some inconvenience and tinkering to get at least certain websites to work.

I, like the Editor, also use the Privacy Badger extension for Firefox, and I use Disconnect, Ghostery, and NoScript, and BetterPrivacy, which are all extensions for Firefox. So configured with the foregoing gauntlet of privacy technologies, my Firefox browser defeats nearly all privacy breaching and annoying technologies, such as adware, beacons, trackers, pixels, iFrames, etc. everything except fingerprinting. And notwithstanding the foregoing configuration of my browser, I almost never encounter a website that I can't make work.

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