Stop Ad Targeting

by on under tech
4 minute read

Below is some information on opting-out of tracking by websites and advertisers, and preventing sites from tracking you. This page isn't meant to be comprehensive, nor does it compare methods/tools; it simply provides some useful information to help you protect your privacy.

What is 'Opting-Out'?

The basic idea is that if you tell sites or advertising networks that you do not want to be tracked, they won't track you. Many websites and ad networks let you opt-out of tracking by clicking a link and/or following instructions provided in their privacy policies. By opting-out, the site or network will put a cookie on your computer instructing the site's or network's ads and code to not track you. Manually opting-out of tracking and managing those opt-out cookies can be hard, but fortunately some of the tools described below automate the process and make opting-out much easier.

What are 'Trackers'?

Sites and networks use a number of methods, collectively called 'trackers', to track your browsing habits and send that collected information back to their servers. Some of the methods include various types of cookies (browser cookies, flash cookies, Javascript cookies, etc…) and web bugs - very small images that you can not see but that can be used to let a site or network know that you have visited a particular website. There are basically two ways to prevent trackers from tracking you: you can opt-out of tracking as described above, or you can build the privacy equivalent of a wall around your browser by using tools that stop trackers from reaching your browser and doing what they do to track you.


Ghostery - Available for Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and Opera, Ghostery is a plugin which prevents trackers from running in your browser and sending information back to sites and ad networks. You can download it at

BetterPrivacy - This is a Firefox plugin that deletes sophisticated cookies known as Super-Cookies. Super-Cookies work by storing information in many different places on your computer, and can be frustratingly hard (or impossible) to get rid of on your own. You can install BetterPrivacy at

TACO - Targeted Advertising Cookie Opt-Out (TACO) is a Firefox plugin that automatically opts you out of tracking from over 100 websites and ad networks by maintaining opt-out cookies on your computer. Older versions of TACO (available here) just set opt-out cookies, while newer versions (available here) are combined with additional privacy tools to create a Swiss Army Knife of privacy. Those using the older version of TACO may wish to install Ghostery to take care of trackers, while those who download the newer version can block trackers by opening TACO’s options, selecting the “Opt-Out & Block” tab, and then choosing to block all of the web tracking categories listed.

Manually Opting-Out of Tracking

Using one or more of the above tools is the easiest way of preventing sites from monitoring you, since they block or opt you out of tracking by hundreds of sites. Furthermore, TACO makes sure that you do not delete opt-out cookies when you delete all your other cookies. But if you can't, or don't want to use these tools, or if you are just curious, here are links to information on how you can manually opt out of some of the most common advertising networks and some of the web's most popular sites.

Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) - The NAI has developed a page that Internet users can use to opt-out of tracking by dozens of advertising networks:

Facebook - This explanation for opting out of Facebook's Social Ads program comes from Nicholas Jackson of The Atlantic. The full article can be found here.

To opt out of social ads, login to your Facebook profile and click on the 'Account' tab in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage. From the drop-down menu, select 'Account Settings' and tab over to 'Facebook Ads.' If this is your first time visiting this page, a window explaining the Social Ads campaign will pop-up, explaining that "[y]our privacy settings always apply to your Facebook content, including any content about you in a social ads." Which is exactly why we’re going to change those right now. Close the pop-up window and, using the drop-down menu under 'Ads shown by third party applications,' select 'No one.' Save the changes to ensure that you'll never appear in a third-party social advertisement. Then, if you want to block social ads completely, scroll down and change the second drop-down menu to 'No one' as well.

Google - -

Lotame -

Snail Mail Opt-Outs

Advertising and solicitations that come in your physical mail box are also a threat to privacy, and a nuisance. Fortunately, there are ways to opt-out of mail based solicitation too.

OptOutPrescreen - - A result Congressional and FTC action, this service is operated by the major consumer credit reporting companies and allows consumers to add or remove their names from the lists that credit card companies use to send credit card offers.

comments powered by Disqus