Commercial surveillance: How to stop data tracking?

Everything that people do today in the internet is being tracked by social networks, news websites, advertisement services and many others. Do journalists have to worry about that? Probably not in the first place. The purpose of this kind of data collection is a commercial one, which may not stand in conflict with the personal threat model of a journalist who want to protect investigations and the identity of sources. However, this is short-sighted.

Commercial surveillance does not work in an isolated silo, but is in constant interrelation with other data collection measures in the internet. A web tracking company may sell data to others or is legally obliged to hand over sets of data to state investigators. There are a lot of ways in which commercial data can find their way to entities that want to compromise journalists security. Does it really? Due to the secrecy of the interchanges, journalists would probably get to know it for sure. They lose control about their data, and that matters.

Tracking methods and countermeasures

It might be impossible nowadays to avoid tracking completely. However, there are some very invasive methods that journalists should take care of – and use countermeasures if possible.

HTTP Connection

A connection over http does not have any kind of encryption. Everything a user sends and receives is readable in plain text. This information can be used to analyse user’s behaviour and record sensitive information. Encryption in transport is only done over https.

A countermeasure is to install an extension (also known as plug-in or add-on) in a web browser such as https everywhere. It enables https on all websites that offer it technically. However, a user always relies on the availability of https on a website, but cannot technically force it to do that.


IP Address

DNS Records


Browser fingerprinting

Data collections on services with a log in

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