Some advice on how to improve the security of your computing habits while browsing the Web

Qwant and Google logos

The Web is becoming unusable for many because of cookies pop-ups, placement of ads everywhere across websites and unwanted blocking pop-ups asking for subscription to newsletters all of a sudden.

Tiny little crosses to be clicked with considerable skill are supposed to stop the mess. But some times, there’s no even microscopic crosses and you must click on the background outside the pop-up container to continue browsing a web site.

If this doesn’t do the trick press the escape button or do something. The list of annoying things appearing out of the blue goes on and on, and the latest new one is Google’s cookies popup.

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Figure 1. Google’s cookies popup

Be prepared to spend minutes if you decide to see more to read the privacy policy which will probably be subject to further changes in the future.

Funny enough, it is a good thing to bring awareness on how cookies are used, especially when giant tech companies are nowadays using peoples’ private data for murky purposes. As we’ve all seen with the Cambridge Analytica scandal in a dystopian world the richest could buy political campaigns at the expenses of your community’s private data.

Let me give some advice on how to improve the security of your computing habits while browsing the Web.

Did you know it is a good idea to often clear cache and cookies? In most cases this can be easily done by just typing Ctrl + Shift + Del while in your browser. This shortcut will open a dialog box with a few options to clear the browsing data, as shown in the example below.

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Figure 2. Clear browsing data on Google Chrome

Alternatively, the dialog to clear cache and cookies can be opened through your browser’s main menu.

Clearing cookies on a regular basis is definitely a good browsing habit that every person should have.

Cookies are plain text files that some web sites send to browsers the first time they connect to. They are handy in a sense that provide a custom, semantic user experience by storing snippets of information like usernames or items added to a shopping cart, but they actually keep track of your preferences and determine your browsing habits, which is then used by businesses to display targeted ads and recommendations.

Some cookies are used to store user session data too so that you don’t have to provide your username and password every time you log into a website. These ones, which are called session cookies, can potentially be hijacked, meaning an attacker could gain unauthorized access on your behalf.

Hence the importance of clearing cookies once you are done with your computing task.

Google’s main competitor in the search engine market in the EU has a name, and it is Qwant.

Qwant is a search engine that protects the freedoms of users. Founded in France (EU) in 2013, it’s been built on the values of privacy, neutrality and freedom. If you’re a grown-up who’s concerned about how businesses process personal data in a globalized world you may definitely want to switch from Google to Qwant, especially after the Cloud Act came into force in 2018.

The Cloud Act is a law requiring US service providers to disclose all data in their possession, custody, or control, if requested by authorities, even if the data is hosted in other countries.

It is pretty straightforward to find out which cookies are sent to your computer by a web server with the help of your browser’s development tools. Those can be typically accessed by typing the shortcut Ctrl + Shift + I as it is shown below in Google Chrome.

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Figure 3. Google asking for permission to store cookies

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When comparing Qwant with Google we learned the former didn’t store any cookies at all while doing our searches: the Storage/Cookies section remained empty all the time in the Application tab. However, with Google a bunch were saved among which we found: NID, OTZ, CGIC, DV, 1P_JAR, CONSENT, ANID, NID and CONSENT.

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Figure 5. Cookies sent by Google

Qwant is a search engine that just works as it is expected to, giving you quick relevant results. Most probably the best alternative to Google users in other countries too since its interface is translated to 26 different languages.

The platform makes an important step towards leveraging the innovative power of open source as per the European Commission’s Open Source Software Strategy 2020-2023. In this way, Qwant launched Qwant Maps in 2019, an open mapping service based on the OpenStreetMap (OSM) database that respects your privacy. Also Brave Browser chose Qwant as its default search engine in France and Germany.

Qwant Junior comes to the rescue to help the little ones aged 6 to 13. The search engine filters results based on those ages, and also provides with practical suggestions on learning, playing with kids and doing fun activities. Let others know that your time is valuable! You and your family deserve security in the space you are, so remember to clear cookies on a regular basis since this is a sane thing to do.

You are a wonderful human being who deserves better and you do have a choice on using applications that have the ability to do bad things potentially; e.g., politicians spending huge amounts of money to buy targeted leads of voters at the expenses of your community’s data.

If you’re really concerned about privacy you might want to consider switching to a GNU/Linux distribution today.

Use Qwant to search the Web.


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