Realize this is a naive question, but I am pretty computer illiterate (too old).
Certain programs obviously spy on me and send information about me to whoever it is that buys that. Examples:
I search for “baby carriage” on amazon, and promptly get advertisements for baby carriages on websites that have ads. Obvious.
I type “baby carriage” in an Email using a gmail.com account, and promptly get advertisements for baby carriages on websites that have ads. OK so google is evil, I get it now.
Is there any way to turn this off or at least minimize it (aside from not using gmail, google, amazon, etc.)?
I know of no way to turn it off. I’ve already started migrating my important stuff to ProtonMail and left my Gmail for collecting spam.
Welcome to the Internet. Use adblockers and stuff. I recommend Ublock Origin for a start. What browser do you use? Would definitely not recommend using Chrome, I use Opera and Palemoon (though I’m migrating my stuff from Palemoon because PM is being deprecated I think). Opera has a built-in VPN that masks your IP which is nice for keeping people from tracking your location.
There is no way short of not using Google, Amazon and pretty much most major sites.
Assuming you are not just talking about cookies, which are stored locally and you can clear in the browser settings, there is very little you can do. As you send what you entered directly to them, so they can present you with the results, there is no way for you to prevent them from getting what you entered.
Well, maybe with the exception of using something like Tor as it essentially disconnects you from the site you visit by inserting several intermediaries. Never used this though.
Tor sucks. Better to just get a trustworthy VPN if you need that much obfuscation (which you probably don’t unless you’re doing something illegal, and if you’re doing that Tor is a great way to get in a huge amount of trouble because it IS compromised).
On the Internet, YOU are the product and you are being shopped around to a lot of people at any one time depending on where you go.
OK thanks much, that makes sense.
I use Firefox, I suppose that doesn’t make a difference as long as I use google, and I guess I will get a different mail carrier, since gmail is google too. I think reading my mail is a bit too much for my tastes.
You can (and probably should) use browser extensions to, at least partially, hide you from all the stuff that’s tracking you. A good adblocker is a start, be sure to have it use some privacy lists that specifically go after all the tracking scripts. I use an extension that auto deletes all my cookies except the ones I whitelist. I also use ghostery, an extension that blocks everything that tries to track me (much of it overlaps with my adblocker, but that doesn’t hurt).
Otherwise, don’t use google, don’t use facebook if possible (might be hard, I know). Those two are the kings of tracking. “Don’t be evil” was at one point an unofficial google motto. Not so much these days…
On the internet, you can be sure that everyone is watching you. All the time.
Someone once told me Ghostery actually itself tracks you and sells your data.
Ghostery is owned by Evidon, a company that collects and provides data to advertising companies. It has a feature called GhostRank that you can check to “support” them. The problem is, Ghostery blocks sites from gathering personal information on you—but Ghostrank will take note the ads you encounter and which ones you block, and sends that information back to advertisers so they can better formulate their ads to avoid being blocked. The data is anonymous, and Ghostery still does everything it promises to do to protect your privacy.