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Online Privacy and Security Toolkit

A guide to developing good privacy and security practices online. Adapted from UW-Bothell, Nicole Gustavsen and Myra Waddell.

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You are being tracked!

There's no way to get around it. Unless you've taken specific steps to secure yourself, you are being tracked online. By whom? You are almost certainly being tracked not only by the owners of the websites you're using at any given moment, but also by a large array of advertisers, social media companies, government entities, and others. These trackers and ads may also slow down page loading times and affect battery life on your device.

The tools on this page will help you find out who is tracking you on any page, and help you to block trackers you don't want tracking you.

Websites need to be able to track some aspects of user experience in order to run their sites properly and some companies may design their pages to require cookies and tracking. Keep this in mind when choosing and implementing tools to block trackers and ads.

Virtual Assistants and Privacy

Virtual assistants, such as Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, and Google Assistant, are increasingly a part of people's homes and lives. Virtual assistants must, in order to function, constantly listen to everything that is being said within their hearing range, which means that they collect a huge amount of data about their owners' lives and habits.The companies that own these assistants have varying policies related to how they handle the data that's being collected. It is important for users of such programs to understand how they work and what sort of data they are collecting and storing. Learn more in the following pages. 

Google and the "Right to be Forgotten"

The "Right to Be Forgotten" is a legal concept that has been enacted in the European Union and Argentina. Essentially, it suggests that people have a right to some (but not absolute) control over information that can be found about them online.

For example, a person who was the subject of public embarrassment in the past, but has since moved on, may continue to be dogged by the negative consequences of search results and other lingering online information. They may wish to have some of this information scrubbed from their search results. The "Right to Be Forgotten" question is whether this is an ethical or legal thing to do.

The "Right to Be Forgotten" is controversial, as it intersects not only with personal privacy, but also with rights to free speech and expression, with concerns about censorship and freedom of the press, and with the practical difficulties of scrubbing any information completely from the Internet. However, as of March 2018, NPR reports that Google has received over 650,000 requests to be "forgotten" since it began considering such requests in 2014.

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How to Track the Trackers

These tools provide relatively easy to use ways to tackle and cut down on trackers. Each tool has different features and works in different ways, so it is important for you to consider a few options before making a decision.