Maintaining your privacy online is a daunting task. Sure, you can delete tracking cookies, tell ad networks that you don’t want to be tracked, tweak your computer and browser settings.
But if you’re really serious about it, you could spend the majority of your time online just covering your tracks. And even then online tracking and advertising companies still have ways to find you, as I’ve written in recent stories here and here.
“It’s something you could do yourself if you had three or four hours a day doing it,” says Doug Wolfgram, CEO of Intelliprotect.
So Wolfgram and his company offer to do that work for you. Intelliprotect.com went live on Jan. 18, offering a series of tools to opt subscribers out of various forms of online tracking.
To be effective, most browser controls and anti-tracking cookies require constant updates to keep up with the daily proliferation of new tracking companies, cookies and other software. Blocking the trackers also requires knowledge of who the trackers are, and which ones offer tools to help. There are about 300 online tracking companies right now, Wolfgram estimates, and only about 170 of them offer super-cookies that block and delete tracking cookies.
IntelliProtect is no silver bullet for online tracking. Even after paying the subscription and downloading IntelliProtect’s software, online trackers will still be able to find you. That’s partly because so many new companies are tracking in so many new ways that even his company and its dedicated full-time staff can’t immediately find them all. Also, some companies just refuse to play by the rules, either by not offering opt-out cookies or setting their tracking devices to ignore consumers’ preferences.
And if you use social media sites, there’s no way to prevent them and the companies they work with from gathering all the data you post to the site and using that for tracking and serving ads to your computer, says Ondrej Krehel, information security officer for Credit.com’s sister company, Identity Theft 911.
“If you go to portals like Facebook and Twitter, these portals try leveraging your information in return for your information,” Krehel says. “So the services they offer appear to be free, but there’s no such thing as free.”
From the consumer’s perspective, Intelliprotect’s system works a lot like antivirus software. Subscriptions start at $6.50 a month. Subscribers have to give their name, date of birth, zip code, and other personal information that they might have given previously to other websites. Intelliprotect does not sell any of that data, Woflgram says.
In return, users get a software suite that includes many different tools, including programs that delete tracking cookies, remove your computer from online directories, and removes your e-mail and other personal information from marketing companies’ lists.
The site also gives each subscriber a personal privacy score. The score rates consumers’ vulnerability to behavioral targeting and other online tracking techniques on a scale of 1 to 999.