Sunday, August 28, 2022

Pi Hole testing, part 2

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had set up and was running Pi Hole, a DNS service that is often used to block ads. I also mentioned that I didn't want it to block ads, but rather, to block tracking of online activity.

I'm not doing anything that I would be ashamed for my kids to know about, but rather I don't like being tracked and the data being sold and used to target me for ads and emails.

During the initial setup, the default blacklist included information for ad services as well as trackers. I also used a Raspberry Pi device that was actually overkill for the job. I used a Pi 4 B with 8 GB RAM. That's more that is needed to do the job. However, a Raspberry Pi 2 that I had ordered arrived last week, and I set it up. I used Raspberry Pi OS Lite (formerly Raspian), which is a command line version of the OS. There is no desktop interface, and everything is command line. I added a USB connected Ethernet port and set a status IP address. I added Pi Hole service, and added the scripts. This was essentially my re-doing step one of the three step process on this project:

Blocking trackers is actually functionality that is built in to many Web browsers. However, I'm looking for a network wide solution to blocking trackers. That's where Pi Hole comes in.

It's a multiple stage process I'm going through. First, I want to see how easy it is to set up and run in general.

Next, I am researching how to block trackers on the network without impacting ad services....

Then, I want to confirm how well the process works on the network.

I'm at stage two, where I'm trying to block trackers without impacting ad services. I've turned off all of the ad blocking scripts. However, some ads are still blocked. That's because some ads also track your usage. Ads that don't track usage aren't getting blocked, but ads that do track usage do get blocked. This is more in line with what I've been looking to do. As I said, I don't mind ads. I do mind my online activity being tracked and sold.

It's been right at a week now that I turned off the ad blockers and are using only tracker and malicious Website blocking lists. That freed up 135,885 URLs (yes, I counted them). I'm feeling a lot better now knowing that I'm only blocking trackers and am letting regular ads through.

Actually, some of those are trackers and are in other lists, so I didn't actually free up 135,000 URLs, but I did free up a lot. If a Website or service has ads and the ads don't track my usage, then I'll see the ads, and I'm okay with that.

I understand why others use Pi Hole to block ads. And if you fall into that category, that's your decision, just as how I'm doing things is mine. My online experience and Streaming Life need to work as I want them to work for me, just as you should have yours work as you want.

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