Browsing without being spied on - step 1: Spoofing our user agent string

Dear Uptrenndians, I'm gonna share here from time to time easy steps to gradually increase our online privacy.


These weeks are ideal for us to raise awareness around privacy-related daily applied measures, with millions of people migrating from TUGAFAM spying software like WhatsApp and Twitter to more personal data respectful solutions.




The browsers’ user agent string


Maybe some of us don't know it, but our browser, be it a desktop or a mobile one, sends a line of identifying text (called "user agent string") to all websites we connect to, informing them of what exact browser version we use, and which operating system.


The standard data a human-operated browser provides with to all Internet servers is the following:


-      the browser category we use    


-     details of the operating system in which the browser is running


-     the platform (client) used by the browser


-    browser platform details


-     the engine responsible for displaying content on the device, or specific enhancements that are available directly in the browser or through third parties (example: the Microsoft Live Meeting extension).


And it results in a script like this one:




Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10_10_2) AppleWebKit/537.36
(KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/51.0.2704.84 Safari/537.36




It’s a quite common practice for web servers to capture and store those data. For example, the howtotrainyourrobot.com privacy policy mentions that: “When visitors leave comments on the site we collect the data shown in the comments form, and also the visitor’s IP address and browser user agent string”.


If the initial justification for inluding that data is “proactive content negotiation” (adapting the website features and graphics rendering to our browser type and version), that kind of information is also used to target us and to categorize us. For example, a Windows user will always be globally considered as more "mainstream" and manipulable than a Linux or an OpenBSD user, hence more prone to buy certain products or be influenced by specific ads, etc.




Note: Google is currently working to impose another client-side detection feature, called “Client Hints”, that would send even more specific data about each device accessing the web, including the installed memory (see: https://browserleaks.com/client-hints for a check-up of your computer or phone). As that new setting would first only apply to Chromium-based browsers, it’s a reason more for changing our user agent string information to show that we use a browser like Edge or Safari :-).




How to protect ourselves




Here's an example of light extension (for Chrome and Brave, but there are for all browsers) allowing us to choose our apparent operating system and our browser: 


https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/user-agent-switcher/dbclpoekepcmadpkeaelmhiheolhjflj







And here you’ll find an explicative video about it: 


youtu.be/BaJx1HT21QU




Enjoy privacy, enjoy freedom! :-)




Sources of the pictures:


1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaJx1HT21QU&feature=youtu.be


2. https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/user-agent-switcher/dbclpoekepcmadpkeaelmhiheolhjflj





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