Internet advertising can be invasive and annoying. Some ads suddenly expand in size, blocking the Web page we’re reading. Others blast audio messages without warning. Pop-up ads appear in new windows that we are forced to close. And “targeted” ads follow us around the Internet pushing products related to topics that we previously looked into online—an invasion of privacy that many people find creepy.
Web browsers have settings that allow us to opt out of targeted ads, but these settings tend to be confusing to use and not especially effective.
Better ways to block annoying Internet ads…
1. Download AdBlock Plus. This free “browser extension” prevents the vast majority of invasive, annoying Internet ads from appearing on your computer screen. Many but not all of the relatively unobtrusive ads that don’t move, make noise or otherwise disrupt still will appear, though you can eliminate these, too, by adjusting the settings in AdBlock Plus‘s”Filter preferences” or “Options” menu. AdBlock Plus isn’t the only ad blocker available, but it’s probably the most effective and easiest to use—just click a button or two to install it, and it will do the rest. AdBlockPlus.org
Important: Ad-blocking filters also may block some pop-up videos, coupons and other features you do want to see. Adblock Plus addsan icon to the browser that a user can click to adjust the filtering rules for any particular Web site or advertiser.
2. Install a tracking blocker, such as DoNotTrackMe. AdBlock Plus has a “Disable Tracking” feature that stops advertisers from following what we do online. But if you want to ensure that Internet-ad-tracking companies aren’t watching you, also download a browser extension designed specifically for this purpose. DoNotTrackMe (Abine.com) is effective, easy to use and free.
Alternative: An even easier way to stop advertisers from tracking you is to click the turquoise triangle found in the upper-right-hand corner of certain Internet ads. Clicking this “AdChoices” icon calls up a Web page explaining how to opt out of tracking. You have to do this only once, not every time an ad appears. But don’t expect this to eliminate all targeted ads. Unlike DoNotTrackMe, AdChoices will prevent tracking only by companies that have voluntarily agreed to participate in the industry’s self-regulation efforts.
3. Opt out of mass e-mailings of ads sent by legitimate businesses. Ads that flood our e-mail in-baskets often claim that we can opt out of future mailings by clicking an “unsubscribe” link, likely found at the end of the message.
If the e-mail in question was sent by a legitimate company that you have done business with in the past, clicking this link likely will head off that company’s future ads as promised. But do not click opt-out links in e-mails sent by companies that you do not know and trust. Doing so is likely to result in more e-mail ads, not fewer.