I sincerely hope this article will be an eye opener for you. Recently I have installed a Pi-Hole at home. To keep it short, this lets me see the home internet traffic live and, if needed, block unwanted requests. The list of ads and trackers has been taken from open source repos like this. Equipped with this combo, I have decided to turn off all of the privacy add-ons that I use and browse the polish internet just like a layman for 20 minutes. Websites I have visited include popular news portals, facebook etc.
Console of Pi-hole:
As it turns out, every time I have entered a website e.g. tvn24.pl, Microsoft Edge has made multiple requests to different websites like gemius.pl (tracking company), twitter.com, google-analytics.com, facebook.com, adocean.pl (polish ad company). Websites I sometimes do not wish to inform that I am browsing a post or an article.
During 20 mins of browsing web, my browser has made 1232 requests! This is one request per second! And I have visited 10, maybe 20 different portals. Out of those 1232, 798 were ads and trackers and were blocked! That is 64%! I have blocked 64% of my internet traffic and it was working without any problems. This is a reason, why you are using more and more internet bandwidth.
But let us dig deeper and analyze the log. I have visualized the data in the pivot chart in Excel. The log is available below:
Blue area represents ads and trackers, orange standard requests (although I believe, you could block some of those too). As you see the ratio of trackers is high through out the experiment. It ranges from 28% at the end, up to crazy 95% when visiting wp.pl (47th minute).
And the top 10 trackers are:
The top tracker in this scenario is for a website pracuj.pl, which is a job board. I guess, you, as a candidate, are a pretty valuable product. However, if it wasn’t for this one website (which tracks you only within the website), the first place would be taken by Google! If summed up, Google would have 189 requests, which is around 20% of all trackers.
Second place goes to Gemius.pl – a polish “research” company. As you see, it has created quite a wide network among polish portals, tracking users through the day. Blocking cookies or incognito mode will not help – only addons like uBlock Origin, uMatrix or similar. Some time ago I read an article (polish only) about gemius.pl. It was explaining how the internet portal of one of the major polish banks was sending information to gemius. Basically, each time you used the website to see your account the bank would share your balance with a “research” company. Obviously, the bank later claimed that it was due to an “error” and the script was deactivated. This shows you that tracking you is a serious business.
Finally, third would be Facebook. Notice that the request is not made to facebook.com, but rather connect.facebook.net – this way facebook knows, which websites you visit. Now you know, where this sweet revenue comes from.
What is interesting is that even after I reject data collection in a bit GDPR pop up, what I see in Pi-Hole after entering wp.pl is:
Some of those naturally come from other services, but as you see that GDPR pop up changes nothing…
In next post I will let you know, how to defend yourself. My internet log is here. Stay private!