Tracker Category

Article author
Josh Lamb
  • Updated

DNSFilter allows you to block tracking domains with a special Trackers category, separate from our Advertising category. This gives you the ability to increase user privacy on your networks.

You can find an enable this functionality on the "Extra Settings" tab of your filtering policy.

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What are trackers?

Trackers are scripts and services which are embedded on websites and collect information about site visitors. While it sounds benign, there is a surprising amount of information that can be gathered, including:

  • How long you've been on a page
  • How far down you've scrolled
  • Where you are coming from
  • Where your mouse is hovering
  • Your location
  • And much more...

Blocking Trackers

Our Trackers category will block domains that host tracking scripts. This gives you similar functionality to a browser extension (such as UBlock) without needing to install anything. DNS-based blocking is actually superior. In the case of a browser extension, you are downloading the script and then blocking it. DNS-based blocking will prevent the script from being downloaded at all.

Tracking methodologies have grown quite advanced. Common techniques are server-to-server tracking (where the site sends data about you directly to another server, rather than your browser doing that for you), CNAME cloaking (hiding behind domain aliases), obfuscation (trying to hide what's really going on).

While our blocking can't prevent everything, it goes a long way in preventing your users from sending and sharing identifying information.

Tracker Debugging

Some websites, such as streaming services, tie their functionality very tightly to tracking services. They will even reduce or remove capability based on if tracking scripts do not load properly. If you experience this, you can follow this article on debugging with the query log to unblock specific domains.

Why Is It Important to Block Trackers?

There are a number of reasons why it is a good idea to block tracking scripts:

It happens behind the scenes

It's rarely made clear to people that sites are silently tracking what they're up to. And even when this is disclosed, it's usually in a roundabout way that tries to hide the extent of the tracking—often it’s just a message with no option to disable the tracking. This makes it very hard to disable or block, and that’s by design. Why do you think that is?

The scariest part is you don’t know exactly what’s being tracked on any given website. And while you can request information that a company has on you, that’s just a single company. And the data they do share is likely incomplete. After all, there might be a profile on you tied to your actual identity, or there might be an anonymized user (you) that those collecting tracking data know very well. But they won’t know to disclose that anonymized profile to you when you request that information.

It's a lot of data

These databases are vast. Freedom of Information requests, which can require companies to give you a copy of the data they hold on you, often result in thousands and thousands of pages of data, or gigabytes of information kept about you. Site visits going back years, purchases you've long forgotten about, even sensitive searches you made that one time when there was a rash you weren't sure about—it's all there.

It's not used for the nicest reasons

There's a saying: If you're not paying for the product, you are the product.

Free services online generally make money through advertising, and the advertising industry wants data.

The information about you can be fed into big databases to build up a picture of who you are, what you like, what you don't like, and then, in the end, sell you stuff. Imagine if even a small percentage of the sites you visit sell or share their info to a database, they can probably create a relatively accurate profile of you as an internet user. The purpose of all of this is usually to put relevant ads in front of you while you’re online. The more information they have on you, the more targeted they can get.

 

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