Do it Yourself–Do Not Track (DIY-DNT) for Firefox and Internet Explorer

UntitledIt used to be that you only needed browser add ins to block annoying advertisements that slowed down viewing of web pages or irritated you by flashing in your face while you were trying to read.  Now, it’s equally (or maybe more) important that you deal with how information about you could end up in the wrong hands just by browsing the Inter-webs. 

With the recent changes by some online companies (I’m looking at you, Google!) your online privacy is now a matter that you have to take into your own hands.  I’ll give you some tips about tracking protection for Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers, that won’t involve opting in or out or reading any small print privacy statements.

big-firefoxFirefox (v.12.0)

  • First, be sure to get the latest version of Firefox. 
  • From the Firefox menu bar choose Tools>Options>Privacy and select the checkbox “Tell web sites I do not want to be tracked” (Web site compliance is voluntary, but it may help some).
  • Go to Tools>Add-ons> and use the “search all addons” text box to find Adblock Plus.  Install it with the default settings.
  • Next, search for and install the DoNotTrackPlus addon.  Again, the default settings will work fine.

ie9Internet Explorer (v.9)

  • From the “gear-like” icon on the toolbar select Safety>Tracking Protection…. Click the “Get a Tracking Protection List online” link.  From the site choose as many lists as you like, but I recommend subscribing to: Abine TPL, EasyList+ and Stop Google Tracking TPL.

The tracking lists and blocked ads are subscriptions that are updated automatically (if you stuck to the default settings).  Advanced settings allow you to turn off blocking on selected sites that you trust or add specific sites that you want to block and these settings will be remembered. 

It’s interesting (to me at least) that when it comes to user-controlled tracking protection,  FF and IE follow different philosophies.  First, neither does it by default, requiring the user to initiate blocking on their own.  But FF requires third-party addons that must add at least a little to the programming overhead, while IE has the coding built in and only needs the data to implement this function.  I can say that browsing the web with these browser modifications is much more enjoyable and responsive.

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Blocking Ads in IE 8 (and IE 9 Beta) with InPrivate Filtering

There is no need for a 3rd-party add-in to block annoying advertisements in Internet Explorer now that “InPrivate Filtering” is included.   This post will describe the procedures for getting the best ad-blocking performance from this new feature.

First, InPrivate Filtering is available under the “Tools/Safety” menu.  It should not be confused with “InPrivate Browsing” which is a completely different operation.  InPrivate Filtering addresses potential tracking of your web use via advertisements – according to Microsoft:

When you visit a website with third-party content, some information about you is sent to the content provider. If a content provider offers content to a large number of the websites you visit, the content provider could develop a profile of your browsing preferences. Profiles of browsing preferences can be used in a variety of ways, including for analysis and serving targeted advertisements.

I tried it and it works OK, but there were some issues:

  • only a few ads were blocked
  • Microsoft does not supply any list of ad sites to block as an importable HTML file. 
  • the default setting was not “Always block”
  • InPrivate Filtering defaults to off for each new browser session

After a bit of research, all of these issues were solved by a few simple procedures, which I will share below.

Block more Ads

Download the current ad block list from this site.  Unzip the list.  In IE go to the Tools/Safety/InPrivate Filtering Settings menu.  Click “Advanced Settings” (lower left corner of the settings window).  In Advanced Settings click the “Import” button and locate the unzipped list file (should be a .xml file).

Always On and “Always block”

A simple registry edit is needed to both turn on InPrivate Filtering by default and set it to “Always block”.  At the same site linked to above in Block more Ads, you will also find the files “InPrivate Filtering Always On” and “InPrivate Filtering Always on IE9”.   These are registry patches for IE8 and IE9, respectively.  Choose the one correct for your browser version, download and unzip the file.  Double-click the .reg file to make the necessary change to your registry.

Updating Adblock Lists

If you have set up as described above and later find a more recent ad blocking list you want to use, go to “Advanced Settings” again and remove your current list before importing the newer list.