Debugger

How to Totally Escape Ad Tracking at Home

Shutting down ad trackers at the network level is difficult, but not impossible

Owen Williams
OneZero
Published in
5 min readDec 9, 2019

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Photo by Tayler Smith. Prop Styling by Caroline Dorn

WWhen you go online or use an app, an array of companies quietly track your every move. Some, like Newrelic, are innocent enough, there to help companies keep track of user errors and respond to them faster. But others, like the Facebook Audience Network, collect a plethora of data as they please, from both your own devices and those on your network.

Ad blocking has traditionally been the answer for consumers looking to keep their information private, but it only works in web browsers. Many companies are now tracking you in native apps, as well. And deleting your Facebook account does not stop the company from tracking you — the social network builds “shadow profiles” to collect data from nonusers around the web, too.

While attempting to protect my own privacy, I decided that the nuclear method was best: Blocking ads and trackers on my entire home network.

Blocking ads and trackers at the network level protects any device connected to that network. Eero, the Wi-Fi router company owned by Amazon, offers a paid service to do this, and free alternatives like AdGuard Home and Pi-hole are also gaining popularity. Most of these tools are designed to run on a Raspberry Pi, an affordable computer that starts at $35, that replaces your home’s default DNS server. When you type in a domain name like “google.com” on your phone, it’s routed to the ad blocker before it can reach its true destination. The ad blocker checks against a community-contributed list of ad servers and blocks tracking URLs that match before they even begin to load.

Network-level ad blocking allows you to control the services your devices invisibly reach out to behind the scenes, which is especially important for native apps on your phone that browser-based ad blockers can’t reach. It also extends to devices like Samsung Smart TVs, which show embedded advertising in the home screen. The ads can’t usually be disabled, but with network-level ad blocking, they…

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Owen Williams
OneZero

Fascinated by how code and design is shaping the world. I write about the why behind tech news. Design Manager in Tech. https://twitter.com/ow