The very fact that you are reading these words means that you make use of the internet. You probably use it for all sorts of things from downloading software and checking the news to keeping in touch with friends and using social networks.
You’re undoubtedly aware that using the internet can mean compromising your privacy, and this is particularly true if you are a social networker. Privacyfix is an interesting add-on for Chrome and Firefox that enables you to check your privacy settings on Facebook, Google and other sites and change those that might reveal too much information about you.
The Privacyfix extension is available – for free – for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. Both work in exactly the same way, and I’m going to concentrate on the Chrome version here as that just happens to be my browser of choice.
Install The Extension
Fire up your copy of Firefox or Chrome and pay a visit to the Privacyfix web site. Click the Get Privacyfix button and you’ll be invited to install the addon; the precise process differs slightly between the two web browsers, but it’s a simple, self-explanatory affair in both cases.
Once the installation is complete, the Pirvacyfix web page will automatically reload, but this time the site will start by analysing your computer and will spend a moment or two determining what settings you currently have in place.
Social networks are one of the easiest ways to find out about people – and this works in both directions. Many people share information on the likes of Facebook without really thinking about who might potentially see it. If you’re not already signed into your Facebook account, do so now so that Privacyfix can check how much of your profile is publically visible.
To the right hand side of the page you’ll see a series of orange and green bars, each of which relates to a different aspect of your privacy. Many of the sections are fairly obvious, but you can hover over the ‘i’ icon to the left of any bar to see a popup description of what the settings means.
Any bars that appear in green mean that your privacy settings are good – this usually means that your information is not shared with anyone you have not explicitly chosen to share with – while orange bar need your attention. If you click the Fix button in any bar that is orange, you will be taken to the section of the Facebook web site that these setting relate to.
At the Facebook page you’ll see a Privacyfix popup that explains which settings you might want to consider changing to help keep your profile more private as well as detailing the pros and cons of doing so. Having made any changes, return to the Privacy fix tab.
Click the Next button to the upper right of the page and you’ll be taken to the section that deals with Google related settings – again you should sign into your account if you have not done so already. Just as with the Facebook section, here you will be greeted with a series of green or orange bars
There are various settings of interest here such as whether Google should record you search history and use it to provide targeted advertising, as well a choosing whether your Google+ account should be made public or not.
Web Site Privacy
Many web sites will use details such as your email address in advertising campaigns, and there is often no easy way to find out if your details are being sold to third parties. Move to the Websites tab of Privacyfix and you can discover which of the web sites you visit share your email address with other companies – you can hover over the icon of a particular web site to see exactly what crimes they commit.
The top section here lists the sites that are compatible with Privacyfix. When you click the Fix button in this section, an email will be sent out to the company in question asking that your details be removed from their database. This is a handy way to email multiple companies at once and saves you the hassle of having to track down the required email addresses.
Cookies are a way for companies to monitor how you make use of the internet, recording the web sites you visit. You can click on the icons for any of the web site you have visited that are listed in the ‘Tracking you right now’ section to see how different sites track you and how they use your data.
Clicking the Fix button will remove cookies that have been detected, while the Fix button in the ‘Limit tracking’ section attempts to block cookies by sending a Do No Track signal to web sites. This is not guaranteed to work with all sites, but it is better than nothing!
You can return to Privacyfix from time to time to ensure that your settings are still doing their job, but you can also activate the Healthbar so you can see these details no matter what web site you are visiting. Move to the Healthbar tab of the site and click the Turn On Healthbar button.
The Privacyfix button in your browser toolbar can now be used to monitor the privacy settings of the sites you visit. When things are green, all is well, but should any orange bars appear on the button, you might want to take a look. Click the button and a drop down menu will highlight any settings that need your attention.
One of the prices we need to pay for using the internet is sacrificing some of our privacy and anonymity. There is little that can be done to change this completely, but Privacyfix does give you the opportunity to take back some of the power and control who has access to your data.
Let us know what you think in the comments below.