There are lots of reasons to avoid trackers in your web browser. Notorious companies like Facebook are compiling profiles of non-users, impacting privacy. For researchers, though, tracking has additional impacts and can throw off the types of results you see. It’s one reason I try to force Google to bypass personalized (location, private results) search, so that past searches don’t impact future searches. You can use NoScript and EFF’s Privacy Badger add-ons to reduce tracking.
You don’t need to actively ban every site; by default, NoScript will assume you don’t want a script to run. Once you’ve trained it, it will remember the next time you return to the site.
<noscript> <img src="https://pixel.wp.com/b.gif?v=noscript" style="height:0px;width:0px;overflow:hidden" alt="" /> </noscript>
For those of you who don’t read HTML, this will display an image –
http://pixel.wp.com/b.gif – which is white and 1 pixel by 1 pixel. This is what that looks like, that dot in the middle:
And if you were looking at it on a normal web site, which uses a white background, see if you can spot it now:
To be on the safe side, the National Post has made their copy of this image 0 pixels high and 0 pixels wide, so it doesn’t really appear on your screen. The alternate text alt tag is blank to avoid accidental mouseover text appearing. When the image loads on the page, that action is recorded on the remote server, with a web analytics program. It’s a way of seeing activity even when other analytics tools are blocked.
And I’m not trying to call the National Post out because it is a common and very old technique. I assume that every marketing e-mail I receive and many web sites I visit use this decades-old tracking concept. You can avoid them in e-mail by not accepting HTML email. On the web, you need to block the source.
This is where EFF’s Privacy Badger and other trackers can fill the gap. NoScript, the extension, may not block <noscript> the tag. But Privacy Badger will see this leak and give you the opportunity to block that source as well. You can download Privacy Badger from EFF’s site but if your corporate security blocks it, they also keep a copy in the browser add-on stores. I found that the store version installed fine (although if you install a copy from EFF on one browser, and from the store on another browser, and sync, you’ll get 2 versions).
I find Privacy Badger more cumbersome to use, because you can’t have it block whole domains – like facebook.com – because it treats each sub domain – a.facebook.com, b.facebook.com – separately. So you have to repeat the training you did with NoScript, and it may feel as though you’re blocking the same site over and over.