Disconnect is one of many free tools that you can download to stop creepy ads from popping up.
What are these creepy ads?
When browsing online and you click on something, for example a book on an online store, the next webpage you go on will start showing an advertisement for the exact product that you had just clicked on. I find this extremely creepy. Who is watching what I'm doing online? Who's keeping track of what I click on?
With social media accounts frequently being linked to sites, i.e. Tweet icons for Twitter, Share or Like icons for Facebook, etc. I worry about how this data can then be linked back to others. I don't necessarily what the whole world to know what I'm searching for, or clicking on online. I find this additionally weird being in other countries and ads will continue to pop up in other languages even when I'm no longer in those cities. For example, if I'm just returned back to the USA from China I will continue to get ads in Chinese that typically play videos which slow down the webpage I'm trying to load. It's very annoying.
So I did some research and found that it's easy and free to block these with extensions you can add onto your browser. After reading through reviews and articles, I decided to try out Disconnect and am very happy with the results!
Disconnect Mini Tutorial
This works on Chrome, Firefox, Opera browsers and Android.
1. Go to: https://disconnect.me/ Click "Get Disconnect".
2. Pick the free version -- it had enough features for me!
I did like the sound of some of the additional benefits you get from the premium version, especially the identify theft protection. However, I'm a librarian still in school. I didn't feel like splurging for premium.
3. After clicking "Get Private Browsing" a pop up asked me to "Add extension".
Note: I use Google Chrome as my browser and for this tutorial. I didn't try it out on other browsers, but I'm sure it's much the same.
You can choose to download the "Get Private Search" but I didn't like this version as much. In Private Search you have to open the extension and search in the disconnect search bar itself and then choose the search engine you want to use (i.e. Bing, Google, etc.). I found this to be a bit annoying, it seemed to be a bit slower to load and it has space for 4 major search engines only which did not include a couple that I use on a somewhat regular basis, duckduckgo.com (gives better results sometimes) and baidu.com (when I need to search for things in China).
For me, I just wanted an extension that I didn't have to think about. I want to to silently work for me, so for this the Private Browsing version was better.
4. After downloading it, it'll pop up beside your address bar with any other handy extensions you have.
5. Done! Now,
How does it work...
Disconnect silently displays the total number of tracking requests on every page.
Green = all requests blocked, success!
Gray = some are unblocked, somewhat success!
I've never actually had it show up as gray so far.
Clicking on the icon itself tells you the number of tracking requests on a page by company. I only just opened amazon.com and a 2 immediately popped up on the Disconnect icon. It shows you the top three, Facebook, Google and Twitter. Further clicking through the advertising, analytics, social and content menus reveals more companies and requests that you probably didn't realize were occurring while you were on various webpages.
The three most common Facebook, Google and Twitter are featured at the top. Clicking the icons allows content from that particular company (green means it's blocking it, gray means you don't want Disconnect to block it).
You can again choose what you want to block (green checked box) or not allow Disconnect to block (unchecked gray box).
Benefits to Using Disconnect
1) Websites load much faster!
I experimented using this with a VPN (with IP address in the USA) and without a VPN in China. Both ways pages loaded much faster, particularly when loading videos, or pages with a lot of graphics.
2) I no longer have creepy ads following me around the internet!
3) Very easy to use - forget about it
I do not use any of the other features that this extension provides. You can specifically blacklist websites, check the bandwidth and time saved, create graphs of this data, etc. But for my purposes , and I think most people's purposes. These additional features are really not necessary.
I love that I don't have to think about this extension. I almost never go into it to see what it's blocking, I just let it silently do it's thing, while I load webpages faster :)