Tuesday 16 April 2019

Putting Facebook back in its box

It really annoys me when I've been searching for (say) a new Zimmer frame, and the next time I log into Facebook I'm swamped with adverts for new Zimmer's.

I then imaging some androgynous, bug-eyed, American geek leaning over my shoulder saying "Hey buddy, what are we looking at today?"

I needed to put a stop to this...

A few months ago, I made the switch from Lubuntu to Peppermint OS. Lubuntu had been an irritation since version 18.04 due to various problems with the OS and some of the applications. Peppermint has proved reliable and a joy to use.

One of the features of Peppermint is an application called ICE, which allows you to create Site Specific Browsers (SSB). So I now have Facebook running as an application in an SSB, which is basically a cut-down Firefox interface.

The only disadvantage is that links to other sites within Facebook do not work, so I have to copy the link and paste it into [another] browser. But believe me, this is a very minor irritation.

I also use individual SSBs for each of my home-banking websites (e.g. bank, credit cards, savings accounts & so on).

For general browsing I use Firefox with NoScript enabled. This isn't for everyone, as Javascript is initially disabled on all sites. So the first time you enter a new site you have to decide which scripts to allow to run and which to keep blocked. But to cripple Facebook, I simply never allow it to run scripts.

Here is an example for www.tvguide.co.uk

...as you can see, my system will not allow scripts from facebook.net. In fact I try to only enable as many scripts as I need to get a particular website running, but looking at the example above, there may still be a few 'bad guys' that I need to disable.

so does it work?

Yes, it does look like I've stopped Facebook following me around the internet. I made these changes at the end of last year, when Facebook started giving me adverts for second-hand cars, following a few car sales related searches on my browser.

Facebook is still giving me car adverts because it hasn't 'moved-on' to other items that I've been looking at since (i.e. the last category it has knowledge of is second-hand cars).

Many websites now seem to run a vast collection of scripts each time you load them. This slows down page loads, so every operation takes longer. It also means that lots of organisations are collecting computer related data and they can track which websites your computer is visiting, what you are looking at, and (if you have a Facebook account) who you are!

I guess one alternative to using NoScript would be to black-list Facebook (and others) within the general web browser, leaving it enabled in the SSB. I may try this if I get some time.


  1. I use pi-hole to block adverts and reduce tracking, I also use its DNS tunnel & DHCP server instead of my ISPs DNS and their router's DHCP server - so dont have to configure any PCs on my network to point their DNS at the pi-hole one specifically. We dont get plagued by any adverts. Really noticed the difference while staying at an Air B&B house recently.

    1. Yes, Pi-Hole looks like an interesting option. I plan to check it out once I've finished updating our kitchen.

      Pi-Hole looks like it blocks ads successfully, but I wonder if it stops Facebook from tracking you?

    2. Possibly not, unless you purposely block their servers via DNS filtering. It does get rid of all the visual crap on the web though...

    3. The Firefox plugin "Facebook Container" looks like it may also do the job.

  2. something else you can do, if you do online banking and have to enter passwords or pin numbers that you dont want others to get hold of, save those past words in text on a thumb drive. When you need to use a password, put in your thumb drive, copy the password of it and paste it where it goes, pull the thumb drive out. This bypasses the ability of key loggers to work, one added measure of course is encrypt the thumb drive as well. I like you feeling about Facebook, we in the U.S. feel the same Facebook, Google and all those big goons. They worry about Russia doing what not only they but every country does regarding elections while the big threat is inside the border.....anyway have a good one.