You are being tracked. A vast network of businesses is actively collecting data about you – and not just you, in the general sense, but specifically you. Your age, gender, income range, location, medical issues, and social connections, everything that describes you is fair game for data brokers.
Companies like Acxiom and BlueKai have created an economy of online, automated surveillance, profiting from the collection and resale of user data to and from marketers, advertisers, and other brokers. The scale and reach of this industry can be disheartening, and avoiding its collective gaze increasingly difficult.
Still, there are ways of decreasing the volume of your data flowing to brokers and even regaining some of your privacy. Ranked from the least to the most involved, here are the services, strategies, and products that can throw the data trackers off your trail.
Use Tor (via Safeplug).
Perhaps you've heard of Tor, the non-profit anonymizing service that routes its users' internet activity through a winding chain of international data connections, confounding nearly every attempt to identify the source of that activity. As effective as Tor is, it requires sacrifice, and discipline – you must use the Tor browser, which is aggressively clunky, and any number of actions, from opening a downloaded document while online to using a browser plug-in (like a video player), can undo your attempts at remaining anonymous. Luckily, there's an easier way to harness Tor's data-bouncing network, with PogoPlug's $49 SafePlug, a box that attaches to your internet router, and automatically redirects all internet activity through Tor. Pages and files load more slowly with SafePlug, but you can use any browser, and set specific, less-vulnerable devices (such as an internet-connected TV) to bypass it.