This site is disconnected (but still interdependent)

As the news has come out recently about just how much our Internet activities are being watched by corporate and government agencies, like a lot of people, I've looked into what I can do to reduce the amount of surveillance I'm under.  Not because I'm up to anything, of course, just on principle.

One of the most effective tools I've found to reduce this constant surveillance is the Disconnect browser plugin.  It works by simply declining to load content into your Web browser that is known to be used for tracking you.  Most of the time you are unaware that you're being tracked, and most of the time you won't notice that Disconnect is preventing you from being tracked.  However, it does provide a handy counter at the top of the browser window to show you how many little tracking tidbits it has blocked on the current page.  I was feeling pretty smug about this until I visited the home page of this very site and saw a higher number than I'd seen anywhere else:

Two hundred and one??  Really?  Now, it's not consistent -- if you leave the window open, you find that the number changes over time.  But considering that I'm trying to avoid being tracked myself, there's no excuse for my contributing to the problem at all, let alone so massively.  Time for action!

Now, the plugin indicates that one of the culprits is a Google Analytics tracking cookie, which I deliberately put there years ago before Google admitted to be part of the PRISM spying program.  That's easy enough to disable, and I lose nothing because my hosting company provides all the analytics I need, and Google is already plenty aware of the site.  So I turned that off.  But that's the tip of the iceberg.

Next order of business: the emblems that appear in the left column of every page, to indicate that our business is carbon-neutral.  The code we were given to generate these badges loads the images from the respective sites, which may be a convenience to us, but it also allows them to collect data on all our visitors.  So I made my own copy of the images, and boom, no more tracking from those sites.  But we're still barely scratching the surface.

The home page of the site (which is where we reached the 201 number) features "teasers" of some of our most recent pages, many of which include embedded videos or slideshows hosted at Google Drive or YouTube.  When your browser loads that content, Google knows you're here, which means the NSA knows you're here, without your having to do anything, and that's not cool.  So, I made local "thumbnail" images that you can click to visit those sites and see the videos.  Google will still know that you came from this site, but at least you're intentionally choosing to let them know.

After removing the embedded videos and slideshows from all the teasers on the home page, the count was down to just four!  Three pieces of content and one tracking cookie... all from Google.  What's going on?  Well, it turned out I had left a Google Ad slot in place from when I was using Google Ads years ago.  Disabled that, and no more tracking cookies!  The three pieces of content turned out to be Google fonts that I had tried out to make the site look slicker.  Back to Websafe fonts we go... and voilá, Disconnect now reveals that the home page is fully disconnected!  You're welcome.

So now the site doesn't look nearly as slick as it did before, but I'm doing my part to combat Internet surveillance.  Please don't take my word for it -- get the Disconnect plugin today!  While you're at it, also get HTTPS Everywhere.  Want to do more?  Visit PRISM Break and really get down to business!