Data Brokers, Infographically

If only we really knew as much about them as they know about us!

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PrivacyChoice + AVG

I’m tremendously excited and proud to announce that PrivacyChoice has become part of AVG Technologies, a global leader in providing protection, performance and privacy solutions for consumers and businesses. This means that Privacyfix will soon be available to more than 150 million AVG customers around the world. As part of AVG, we also will have the resources and commitment to relentlessly innovate in our mission to make privacy easier.

From our first meeting with the AVG team we could see that we share a deep commitment to providing people with real control over how their data is collected and used. This shared vision is one of empowerment, not fear. One that offers enlightenment, simplicity and fun. One that is delivered across all of your devices and all of the platforms that you use. One that is not about making choices for you, but rather helping you make better choices, more easily. And it is also a vision about helping move industry and decision-makers toward practices that give people maximum control over their own data.

Privacyfix will remain a free service, providing you with a dashboard to manage our privacy choices across social networks, websites and online trackers. As part of the AVG team, we’re already hard at work on new features and extending our coverage to new devices and browser platforms.

We’re deeply grateful to the many people who have contributed to the PrivacyChoice project, particularly the amazing global team that came together around this project over the last four years. We’re especially grateful to our users: Those who wrote to us with praise, suggestions or complaints; those who helped us troubleshoot problems; those who volunteered to test new versions; and those who spread the word about Privacyfix to family and friends. It is the thrill of serving you that moves us forward. Now as part of AVG we can serve you even better.

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Privacyfix Healthbar: Your privacy companion just got a whole lot better

The Privacyfix Healthbar is like your privacy companion, watching out for privacy risks as you visit different sites across the web. Today we’ve given Healthbar a whole new look, and added some seriously improved features. Here’s the low-down:

ID traders

My favorite new feature in the Healthbar tells you when the website you’re on is enabling companies that use personal information, like your email address, to target ads. By way of background, the vast majority of ad trackers promise to operate anonymously, gathering profile information and applying it to ad targeting without ever using identification information like your name or email address. Many people are comfortable with this kind of anonymous tracking, perhaps because they like more relevant ads as long as no personal data is involved.

However, a whole new breed of trackers is taking things to a new level: they gather a profile that is directly linked to your email address or other identifying information. This profile might include offline data, like what you’ve bought with a grocery store loyalty card that is also tied to your email, or demographic information culled from a public database. In this new technique, websites make their registration data (usually email addresses) available to these trackers and allow them to lay down a browser cookie that is matched up with that email-based profile. The site gets paid for the use of your email address, and the same cookie can now be used across sites to target ads to you. If just reading about this practice makes you uncomfortable, you’re not alone, particularly if the site never mentioned that your email address would be used in this way.

With the new Healthbar, now you can see when we’ve found these more aggressive trackers on the site you’re visiting. If you have ad tracking blocked, these companies won’t be able to set or read cookies in your browser. But remember, when you see that alert, your should still twice about giving the site your email address (or ask them to delete it, if you already have). Even better, send them a note asking why they participate in this practice.

Direct widget and blocking controls

By popular demand, Privacyfix now allows you to control social widgets and tracking directly from the Healhbar interface. Since blocking social widgets inevitably interferes with content on some websites, it’s now even easier to create a whitelist exception from blocking for any site where you want to allow widgets to operate. Like always, we leave it up to you to decide the privacy choices you want to make.

Dynamic scoring

In this update, we updated the way that we measure your privacy risk on the site you’re visiting, in order to incorporate new readings. Out of a total of 15 possible points (dots at left), here’s how we score:

Remember, the Healthbar isn’t just about showing you our privacy ratings for a site — it’s really about your level of privacy risk given the site’s ratings and your own settings. Play around with the Healthbar controls for a minute and you’ll quickly see that we update your risk reading in real-time. Just don’t forget to leave yourself protected when you’re done!

Blocked-tracker count

So you can know just how hard Privacyfix is working for you, it now keeps count of the estimated number of tracking attempts that have been blocked. We base this on the average number of trackers our panel tends to see on pages from the site. Unfortunately, given the growing pace of tracking, we had to allow space for eight digits — that’s right, tens of millions of tracking attempts. Sigh.

Better performance

Behind the scenes, the Healthbar update now uses an entirely new method for getting site data to check your risk. The benefit to you is faster loading time from site to site. The benefit to us is fewer calls to our server and better scalability. Win-win.

Do you have feedback for us on the new Healthbar, or an idea for the next version? We’re all ears.

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Today’s Privacyfix: Disable Facebook’s facial recognition

Pictures are a core component of the Facebook experience. Most of the time, you’re either posting pictures or looking at pictures.

One fun feature of Facebook is that you can be tagged in a photo, which allows people to find pictures of you more easily, and connects other people’s pictures with your timeline. To make tagging easier, Facebook has implemented a facial recognition feature. Essentially, Facebook scans your photos, gathers information about your face (such as the distance between your eyes, mouth or other features), and creates something like a “face print” that is relatively unique to you. When someone else uploads a photo, Facebook’s systems can look through the face prints of their friends, and suggest to them that it’s you.

We’ve heard from users who are concerned that Facebook may use your face print in other, unexpected ways. What if someone you don’t know catches you in the background of a photo that they’ve taken? What if someone doesn’t know what your name is, snaps a photo of you, uploads it to Facebook, and finds you as tag suggestion. Are face prints available as part of government inquiries?

If you conclude that you would rather limit the use of your face print as much as possible, Facebook gives you an option to turn off the application of facial recognition to tagging photos. You can find it by visiting this link. Here’s what this privacyfix looks like:

Given the importance of this feature to many people, we’ve added it as a new setting you can check using Privacyfix.

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Today’s Privacyfix: Clean out your YouTube watch history

Did you realize that YouTube keeps a history of the videos that you’ve viewed, whether on or when embedded across the web?

Having that history can be convenient to re-find something you’ve already seen. Your history can also help YouTube and Google personalize your video recommendations. Of course, Google also uses the information to select the ads that you see.

But your viewing history might include videos you don’t want associated with your profile. Your view history might also be inadvertently available to hackers or people who share your computer or devices.

Fortunately, Google leaves that choice up to you, by giving you the power to edit or completely clear your viewing history, and to pause it so that future video views don’t accumulate in your history.

We’ve just added this as a new privacy setting within Privacyfix, but you can also go directly to the page where you can manage it, by clicking here.

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Today’s Privacyfix: Meet the Google Settings app for Android

Android users, if you haven’t already met the “Google Settings” app on your phone or tablet, I’d like to introduce you now. This is not something you’ll find in Google Play — instead, it’s something that Google bundles in with Android. If it isn’t already on your homescreen, go to your apps and dig it up (it’s green, as you can see on the left).

When you open the app you’ll see some key settings that affect the kind of data that Google may collect through the device. These settings will apply across Maps, Search, Google Now and whatever they launch next in the battle for your time, attention and precious search queries.

Once you’ve checked your settings, here’s the Bonus Round: Drag the app right on your homescreen, so you’re reminded to check it once and a while.

See more Privacyfixes here >>

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Today’s Privacyfix: Clear your Facebook searches

You may have read about Facebook “Graph Search,” part of Facebook’s efforts to make all of Facebook’s content easier for you to search. It’s getting easier and easier to find a friend, a restaurant, or your favorite sporting team’s Facebook page through Facebook’s search. One thing you might not realize is that all of your Facebook searches are stored in your Timeline.

If that concerns you, you’ll be happy to know that Facebook just restored a feature (missing for a while due to a bug in the system, ahem) that allows you to edit or clear your search history.

Why would you want to do this?

Have you ever left your computer without logging out of your Facebook account? Having every search query you’ve entered into Facebook’s search engine could allow other people to learn a lot about you based off of your search history. Your searches also could be available in a legal process.

What’s the downside?

Like Google, Facebook uses your previous searches to deliver more relevant search results, and Facebook makes note of this when you clear searches via confirmation popup. Also, since you can’t turn off Facebook search history completely, you’ll have to remember to clear searches periodically.

How does it work?

If you decide that you do not want your Facebook searches to be stored because of privacy concerns, or any reason for that matter, here’s how to clear your Facebook searches:

  • Begin by reviewing your Activity Log.
  • Click “More” button (it’s located under the “Comments” tab).
  • More options will appear, and you will need to click the tab that says “Search”
  • Finally, click the button at the top of the page that says “Clear Searches” 
  • You will be asked to confirm your decision, and Facebook will prompt you by letting you know that you will see less relevant search results.


Let us know if you think clearing your searches should be part of the Privacyfix routine for Facebook. Wait, you haven’t tried Privacyfix? What are you waiting for?

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Today’s Privacyfix: Get your friends’ apps under control

Applications are a key part of the Facebook experience for many people. Whether you’ve installed a Facebook game, or an app that pushes status updates to another social media account, you’ve allowed that application to access your Facebook account, including your personal information.

Not only do your apps access your profile information, they can access some of your friends’ information as well. A good example is a birthday reminder app. It needs to know your friends’ birthdays to operate without a ton of work on your part.

Of course, since your applications can access your friends’ information,  your friend’s applications also may access your information, too. And they do so without necessarily asking your permission to do so.

If that concerns you, relax — Facebook has built in very fine-tuned controls that allow you to block access by your friends’ apps to your own Facebook profile.

The easiest way to find this setting is through Privacyfix. Here’s the manual approach: You can be taken directly to where you need to go by clicking here.

If you want to know how to manually change you app settings,  follow these steps:

  • Click the Privacy Shortcut Button, located to the right of your name.
  • From the drop down menu, click on “See More Settings.”

  • From the menu on the lefthand side, click apps.

  • Once in the apps settings page, click the “Edit” button to the right of the “Apps others use” heading.

  • From here, uncheck every box that includes information that you would not want your friends’ apps to take with them. Maybe you want birthday reminders, but you don’t want unknown companies to see your “Religious and political views.” As always, be sure to save your changes.

If you want to learn more about Facebook privacy, check out our other Privacyfixes or visit


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Get your Privacyfix for LinkedIn

Privacy choices in the modern world often involve subtle tradeoffs. Nowhere is this more clear than LinkedIn, which we’ve just added in a brand new section of Privacyfix.

Here’s what it looks like:

Most people in our testing group said they had no idea many of these settings even existed. The first one is the most interesting to people by far — most folks don’t realize that when they browse someone’s LinkedIn profile, by default that person will be notified. The nuance is that, if you don’t allow these notices, you also won’t get notified when others view your profile. It’s the kind of quid-pro-quo that we love surfacing in Privacyfix.

This also highlights a big difference between LinkedIn and Facebook when it comes to privacy settings: For many people, LinkedIn is all about making new business and career connections, so you may want your business profile and activity to be much more open than you would your personal and family life on Facebook. Our job with Privacyfix is not to make these choices for you; rather it is to help you navigate them more easily and make more informed choices.

As part of this update, we’ve also changed the way that overlays appear when we take you to settings pages on Facebook, Google and LinkedIn. Now the instructions always appear in the same place at the top, which is more usable and ensures that you can see all of the instructions on the page.

We’ve kept the wildly popular “focus” feature, which zeros in on the relevant setting with highlighting. And now you can toggle the focusing on or off, and it clicks off as you interact with the setting.

Check your LinkedIn settings now with Privacyfix >>

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How you’re tracked online: A video discussion from the Washington Post

Here’s an interesting video about online tracking, which features Mozilla’s Collusion visualization tool (very cool and powered by the PrivacyChoice Trackerlist).

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