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Y0ur P@ssw0rd S*cks: How can I stop being bombarded with junk ads?

So what do you do if you don’t want to be served with ads related to your online activity? There are a couple of options.


Mikael Thalen


Y0ur P@ssw0rd S*cks is a bi-weekly column that answers the most pressing internet security questions web_crawlr readers have to make sure they can navigate the ‘net safely. If you want to get this column a day before we publish it, subscribe to web_crawlr, where you’ll get the daily scoop of internet culture delivered straight to your inbox.

Today, web_crawlr reader Mary T. asks: “If I search for something I get inundated with ‘ads’ for that subject… How can I search without be bombarded with junk?”

It happens to all of us. You do a quick search on Google and are suddenly inundated with ads related to that topic on Instagram. Sometimes these ads are so precise that it feels like our phones are listening to us.

Some people find such personalized ads useful. You check out a clothing brand you like online, and suddenly receive ads for similar brands that suit your style. But a recent survey found that 62% of consumers find targeted ads creepy.

So what do you do if you don’t want to be served with ads related to your online activity? There are a couple of options.

On a broader level, a user can install an adblocker into their browser. But not all adblockers are built alike. A reputable adblocker I recommend is uBlock Origin.

Remember though, many sites rely on serving you ads to get by. Most adblockers including uBlock Origin allow you to treat certain websites as “trusted,” meaning only that site can show you ads while others can’t.

It never hurts to add the sites you want to support to that trusted list, such as, oh let’s say, dailydot.com.

But what about when using apps on your phone? How can you block targeted advertising there? Luckily, many apps allow you to turn off personalized ads, meaning the ads you do see won’t be based on your activity within the app.

Simply searching “how to disable personalized ads on the Instagram app,” for example, will show you what you need to do

If you have a Google account, there is an option to turn off personalized ads as well.

Using a VPN, which we’ve discussed previously, is also an option. VPNs can hide your real location when online, which will help stop ads coming  from local businesses.

Unfortunately, tracking on the internet is so pervasive that it’s impossible to stop entirely.

If you really want your brain to hurt, I absolutely recommend watching and reading this series from journalist Kashmir Hill in which she tries to block Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple from her life entirely.

You’ll be shocked at how many unsuspecting things rely on those five tech giants.

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