Citizens' Issues
Privacy Tools: How to block online tracking
Many companies track your behaviour and request information about you without explicitly asking for your permission. Here’s how to combat the trackers 

Many sites (including ProPublica) track user behaviour using a variety of invisible third-party software. This means any time you visit a web page, you're likely sharing data about your online habits, from clicks to views or social shares, whether you realize it or not. But there are a few ways to combat online tracking – although none can block some of the more sophisticated tracking techniques, such as 'fingerprinting' and 'onboarding.' Here are three tools that block the most common trackers.
Featuring an ever-growing database of over 1,900 tracking entities, Ghostery's browser add-on can detect online trackers as you browse specific pages.
On each website, Ghostery displays a list of entities tracking data from that site in the upper right corner of the screen. Although it shows you all the trackers it detects, Ghostery does not block them by default. You must visit the settings page to block individual trackers or block all trackers.
If you don't mind being tracked by the third parties on a particular website, you can "whitelist" the site using the extension's dashboard.
Ghostery users are encouraged to opt in to Ghostrank, a service that sends anonymous information to a Ghostery server about where and how users encounter trackers. Ghostery is a for-profit company that analyzes the Ghostrank information and sells it to companies that want to manage their tracking businesses.
Ghostery is maintained by a team of analysts who keep the list of trackers up to date, according to Andy Kahl, Ghostery's Senior Director of Transparency.
Ghostery's add-on is available for most widely-used browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Safari. It's also available for mobile devices on iOS and Firefox Android.
The Disconnect tracker add-on takes a user-friendly approach of blocking trackers by default, but allowing requests that it considers to be necessary for loading content.
Full disclosure: Disconnect gave ProPublica $7,759.54 last year in donations from its users and expects to contribute another $1,500 after featuring us as a Charity of the Month for May 2014.
Disconnect detects trackers based on the number of requests they've made for your information, and displays them in one of four categories: advertising, analytics, social and content. Users can re-enable a tracker or whitelist a website from the dashboard in the upper right hand corner of the Web browser.
The extension also features a nifty visualization of all of the requests surrounding the page you're on, with a graph of each third-party request connected to the current page, and a rundown of web resources saved by disabling trackers, like bandwidth and browsing speed.
Disconnect maintains its database of trackers by crawling popular websites for third-party requests, then categorizing those requests by type, according to co-founder Casey Oppenheim. The Disconnect database is open source, unlike Ghostery's library of trackers.
Disconnect also provides a separate browser extension that allows you to search anonymously on engines including Google, Bing, Blecko and DuckDuckGo. Disconnect routes your search queries through their own servers, so Google, for example, would effectively see and store your search as a request from Disconnect instead of you.
Disconnect also lets users view ratings for each website's privacy policies in nine color-coded icons designed to correspond to a variety of privacy concerns, from the expected collection and use of data according to the site's privacy policy, to SSL encryption and HeartBleed vulnerability. So far, Disconnect has evaluated and assigned icons to over 5,000 websites.
The site's own privacy policy promises never to collect IP addresses or any personal info except for the email addresses of users who sign up for their (opt-in) newsletter.
Disconnect tracking and security extensions are currently available for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera. The service also provides tracker-blocking options for iOS devices with its Disconnect Kids app. Disconnect's tracker-blocking code and database are available on Github.
Privacy Badger
This tracker-blocking tool is a new project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and uses an algorithm to "learn" which social or ad networks are tracking you over time.
That means the tool takes awhile to get going. It initially allows third-party trackers until it detects patterns in third-party requests. Then it will start automatically blocking what it considers "non-consensual invasions of people's privacy," according to its FAQ.
EFF decided to use an algorithm over a compiled filter list of trackers to make the extension harder to circumvent.
"Blocking algorithmically…is more responsive and is able to better protect users from all trackers, not just the ones we have identified as a problem," Cooper Quintin, a technologist working with EFF, wrote in an email.
Users can manually adjust blocking by using sliders that control access to their data in three levels: Completely blocking all requests from third-parties, blocking cookies from third-parties, and unblocking third party requests.
By default, the Privacy Badger will whitelist domains that it believes are necessary for web functionality. Those domains will automatically be blocked from leaving cookies, but will not be blocked completely unless the setting is manually adjusted, according to its FAQ.
Like Ghostery and Disconnect, users can also manually "whitelist" any site by disabling Privacy Badger on it.
In an interesting twist, Privacy Badger will allow trackers to unblock themselves if they post a privacy policy that honors users' "Do Not Track" requests. Currently, only a few tracking companies have agreed to not track users who check the "Do Not Track" button in their Web browsers.
Privacy Badger is available for Google Chrome and Firefox. A list for its "whitelisted" sites are available on Github along with the code for the extensions.
A note on methods for flagging trackers
If you install all three or any number of these add-ons concurrently, you will notice that they often detect a different number of trackers on any given page. That's because each service classifies tracking slightly differently.
Ghostery displays individual trackers per page based on its own database. Meanwhile, Disconnect displays the total number of requests made by detected trackers. And Privacy Badger flags third-party domains, not the number of requests made by those domains.
What do you use to keep yourself from being tracked online? Let us know in the comments section.
Looking for ways to make your web experience more secure from the Privacy Tools series? Read more on encrypting your files and messages, masking your location, safely browsing the web, taking data out of the hands of data brokers, and building better passwords.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled an Electronic Frontier Foundation technologist’s last name. His name is Cooper Quintin, not Quentin.



Bharat parikh

3 years ago

Moneylife Foundation’s Legal Resource Information Centre’s (LRIC) main objective is to provide information,
advice and preliminary guidance to persons needing legal help or planning legal action in 10 defined areas.

Some of word used in your Advice are
Your query is confusing.on giving Clarification in details for my Query You Say!
"Since your case is complicated and require more help on the ground, we suggest you to seek professional help from a lawyer".& said
"We request you to check our panel of experts and chose the appropriate one, suitable for your cause and let us know. We will provide you the contact details of the expert chosen by you".
In Reply I request
I would like to contact Prof. Shirish Shanbhag. of Patkar college Pls. provide contact details.
You did not Ans. Every time I send you request you never bother to respond I have to make Telecom after waiting for so long
& at last You said that
We are treating your case as closed at our end
I am sorry to say that without proper advice you discourage help & guidance asked.
Surely You are a non profit organisation But this type of attitude is not at all desirable nor make any sense to any person who has all respect for you. pls do the needful at the earliest.
Hope you received my clarification Dtd.15 June response to my query & request guidance Dtd.7 th June 2014.
Email I.D. [email protected]


Sucheta Dalal

In Reply to Bharat parikh 3 years ago

We are surprised at your filing this comment here.
This is the reason why it becomes difficult for us to help.
Now let me state some facts:

Moneylife Foundation offers free legal guidance. But we make it clear that it is only on email, because we have extremely limited resources.
In fact, we have started the LRC with only 7 months funding and of this 4 months are over already.
A legal resource centre for middle class people who can pay is clearly not something that any philanthropist thinks is a worthy cause.
So when you have sent a query, you will have to wait patiently for a reply -- we have limited resources and a lot of queries. We also get emails from people who will not make the effort to fill out the form but expect help over the weekend when we are closed.
I am afraid that is not possible.

Coming to your case:
We have repeatedly replied to you. In fact, immediately the first time.
Your case is complicated, it need professional handling -- this became very evident when we asked you for clarifications on your earlier email.
Again, let me reiterate that we work with limited resources and most of us work for the Moneylife magazine and make time for LRC work.
If you do not appreciate the speed of our work (which in any case is not more than a week) we again urge you to seek paid professional help.
You must accept that not-for-profit activities have limitations and resource constraints.

best Sucheta Dalal, Trustee, Moneylife Foundation

Sensex, Nifty may shed some gains– Thursday closing report

If Nifty moves down, it will find support around 7650

We mentioned on Wednesday that the Indian indices will try to move higher. The benchmarks opened Thursday higher and immediately hit the day’s high which was also their new lifetime high. After this, Sensex stopped trading due to technical issue for more than three hours for which Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) has sought a reply from the BSE.

The S&P BSE Sensex opened at 25,876 while CNX Nifty opened at 7,734. Sensex hit a high of 25,999 before it stopped trading because of network outage. Nifty hit a high at 7,755. In the last few minutes of the trading session the indices hit a low at 25,794 and 7,707. Sensex closed at 25,824 (down 17 points or 0.07%) while Nifty closed at 7,715 (down 10 points or 0.13%). The NSE recorded a volume of 109.72 crore shares. India VIX rose 1.34% to close at 17.8050.

Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said that the government will initiate measures to turnaround the highways sector in two years by garnering funds to the tune of Rs1 lakh crore in a year.

Inflation is still uncomfortably high in India and the new government should avoid fiscal slippage as it seeks to revive the economy, the World Bank's India director told the media.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on Wednesday approved the inclusion of onion and potato under the purview of stock holding limits under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955. This will empower the State Governments to undertake de-hoarding operations and control the prices of onions and potatoes.

India's services sector registered a strong growth in June 2014, a survey showed today. The seasonally-adjusted HSBC Services Business Activity Index edged up to a 17-month high of 54.4 in June 2014, from 50.2 in May 2014. New business flows and stronger business sentiment supported expansion in the services sector activity in June 2014.

Tata Motors (3.03%) was the top gainer in the Sensex 30 pack even though it reported a 27 % year-on-year decline in its June sales. Hero MotoCorp reported 10% growth over the corresponding quarter of the previous fiscal. The company sold 17,15,129 units of two-wheelers in Q1 of this fiscal compared to 15,59,282 units sold in the corresponding quarter of the previous fiscal. In June, Hero MotoCorp commenced production at its fourth manufacturing plant at Neemrana in Rajasthan. With the commissioning of the plant, which has an installed capacity of 750,000 units, Hero MotoCorp now has a total annual installed capacity of 7.65 million units of two-wheelers. Hero MotoCorp (3.17%) was the top loser in the Sensex 30 stock.

Eicher Motors today hit its 52-week high at Rs8,679.15 on the BSE. Eicher’s motorcycle sales surged 83% to 25,303 units in June 2014 over June 2013. Sales for models with engine capacity up to 350cc jumped 80% to 22,073 units in June 2014 over June 2013. Sales for models with higher engine capacity jumped 106% to 3,230 units in June 2014 over June 2013. Exports rose 60% to 784 units in June 2014 over June 2013. Eicher (5.16%) was among the top three gainers in the ‘A’ group on the BSE.

GMR Infrastructure (7.98%), top loser in the ‘A’ group on the BSE, has launched its qualified institutional placements. The price band is Rs31.5-32.4 and the floor price is Rs33.14. Apart from the QIP of $300 million, the board has also approved allotment of 18 crore preferential warrants to the promoters.

US indices closed Wednesday flat. Employment at companies climbed in June by the most since November 2012, a sign the US job market is strengthening along with demand, a private payrolls report showed. The 281,000 surge exceeded the most optimistic forecast and followed a 179,000 increase in May, data from the ADP Research Institute showed. Asian indices had a mixed record. Taiwan Weighted (0.44%) was the top gainer while Jakarta Composite (0.40%) was the top loser. European indices were trading higher. US Futures were trading marginally in the green.


IiAS calls for greater clarity in company executive remuneration

The proxy advisory firm also recommended companies set caps on executive remuneration, and limit the range of the board’s powers to decide compensation

In India, pay packages for executive directors needs shareholders’ approval. But till now, managements have pushed shareholders to vote on executive director compensation with resolutions that are ambiguous, and effectively provide the board with a large amount of discretionary powers. Institutional Investor Advisory Services India Ltd (IiAS), citing three resolutions related with executive compensation that were defeated by shareholders of Tata Motors Ltd, said there is need to have greater clarity on such resolutions.


"Companies must wake-up to the message being sent by shareholders. These resolutions are built upon the practical understanding of investor psych: they are unlikely to vote against a resolution unless there is a material performance dip. Most compensation resolutions are merged with (re)appointment resolutions, adding to the decision-making dilemma, and creating a greater challenge for investors wanting to veto the resolution. A more proactive approach and independent oversight from the board/ management will go a long way in addressing this concern raised by shareholders," the proxy advisory firm said in a statement.


According to IiAS, on Thursday, three resolutions relating to executive compensation presented by Tata Motors were defeated, where 53% of the non-promoter shareholders participated in the voting. Remuneration resolutions need to be passed by a 75% majority – in these three cases, almost 30% of the votes were cast AGAINST, it said.


The recent amendments to Clause 49 of the Listing Agreement and the Companies Act 2013 break the compensation conundrum by enforcing disclosures that provide greater clarity on executive directors’ compensation. In addition to these, IiAS said it recommends companies set caps on executive remuneration, and limit the range of the board’s powers to decide compensation. Shareholders need clarity on what they are being asked to vote on.

     Source: IiAS


The proxy advisory firm said, the ambiguity of compensation resolutions could have material implications. While reviewing the pay practices of the BSE S&P Sensex and Nifty 50 companies (excluding public sector units), IiAS said it observed certain anomalies, like, the fixed pay is often ambiguous. This component comprises the basic salary along with perquisites and allowances (including accommodation, insurance, club memberships, leave en-cashment, conveyance, telephone etc). Companies do specify a standard set of perquisites that executive directors are eligible for, yet these are rarely quantified. The lack of an overall cap leaves shareholders guessing on what will be the actual compensation payout - the complete control over compensation and annual increments, for all intents and purposes, rests with the board. And sometimes, even a cap might not be enough to provide clarity. If the upper cap is very high, the basic salary can range within a very broad band.


While analysing such resolutions, IiAS assumes the last paid salary as the minimum. Companies must also provide clarity on the fixed pay because with lack of adequate disclosures, the other components i.e perquisites, allowances and retirement benefits, which flow from this number, become open-ended, it added.

Source: IiAS


Talking about short-term incentives like commission, IiAS said, in 40% of the Nifty 50 companies, the commission is either specified as a percentage of net profits or is left to the discretion of the board. "The idea of linking commission to profits is sensible. However, in large companies, where profits are more than a threshold (say Rs40-50 billion), companies must be far more specific about the commission payout, given that even a nominal percentage of the net profits can result in a very high payout range. If left to the discretion of the board, companies need to formulate and disclose the performance benchmarks which are used to arrive at the commission payable, and also set a reasonable cap on the maximum amount that will be paid," it added.


Employee stock options (ESOPs)

ESOPs are a long-term incentive tool used by companies to attract, retain and motivate employees. Given its inherent linkage with performance, most companies tend to grant large number of ESOPs to its employees, including executive directors. However, only one out of the Nifty 50 companies (who have ESOP schemes) actually spelt out the maximum number of ESOPs its director will be entitled to. In all other cases, it was left to the board. It can be argued that companies have to make annual disclosures on the number of ESOPs granted to its directors in that year. But that’s a post facto argument. Shareholders have the right to get some clarity on the number of

ESOPs that are likely to be granted to directors before their approval is sought.


"For example," IiAS said, "YC Deveshwar, Chairman of ITC, was granted 270,000 ESOPs in FY13 at an exercise price of Rs2,494. Considering that these options were valued at Rs647.92 each, his total compensation through stock options amounted to Rs175 million in FY13. This is significantly higher than his remuneration of Rs99.3 million disclosed to shareholders."

Source: IiAS


Not all companies pay excessive salaries. For example, Infosys, Sun Pharma and the Tata Group ensure that their executives are paid in line with the industry average. However, even their remuneration policies are designed in a discretionary fashion and are open ended.


Till now, most institutional investors have not openly voiced their view on this. However, they are slowly starting to question the high payouts. Not surprisingly, the regulators have started pushing for greater scrutiny of executive compensation in listed companies.


IiAS said it believes the new disclosure requirements can act as self-regulatory tools and may induce companies to be more considered in their compensation decisions. Moreover, the consistency in disclosures will create comparability, thereby fostering an environment of competitive behaviour that will serve shareholders’ interest and the corporate governance agenda.


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