What is Global Privacy Control? How organizations are teaming up to prevent your personal data from being sold

Hand typing on computer
The Global Privacy Control feature is a setting in some browsers and plug-ins designed to protect you against websites selling your personal data.

  • The Global Privacy Control (GPC) feature is a setting in some browsers and plug-ins to tell websites not to sell your personal data.
  • GPC is found in a small number of browsers and plug-ins, and compliance is optional.
  • The GPC is being developed by a consortium of tech companies and publishers.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

The Global Privacy Control (GPC) is a technology initiative being spearheaded by a group of publishers and technology companies to create a global setting in web browsers that allows users to control their privacy online. This means you should be able to set the GPC control in your browser to prevent websites from selling your personal data.

Why the Global Privacy Control feature is important

In recent years, there has been increasing scrutiny on privacy rights online. In 2018, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect, limiting the data websites can collect on EU citizens. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is a similar legislative measure that went into effect in California in 2020.

While there is enhanced interest in online privacy and some governments are taking steps to limit what websites can do with user data, there is no global way for users to opt-out of having their personal information sold or used in ways they don’t approve of. Every website that needs to comply with legal mandates – or simply implement more progressive privacy policies – must implement an opt-out mechanism on its own.

The GPC is built to inform websites not to sell user data. This is different from other privacy tools that might limit tracking but might still allow user data to be sold (or to sell that data itself).

What is the Global Privacy Control feature 1
Some organizations offer the ability for users to opt-in to their privacy control feature.

When fully implemented, the GPC may allow you to opt-out of having your personal data sold by the websites you visit.

Status of the Global Privacy Control feature

Buoyed by these new laws, the GPC is intended to be a single, global setting users can activate in their web browser that signals to all websites the user’s intention about their data privacy.

Currently, the specification is being written by an informal consortium of more than a dozen organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the National Science Foundation, The New York Times, Mozilla, The Washington Post, and Consumer Reports.

The specification that will govern how the GPC will be implemented and behave is still in development, though in principle, it simply allows a website to read a value (such as Sec-GPC-field-value = “1”) to know that the user has chosen to opt-out of having their data sold.

A number of web browsers and browser extensions have implemented the GPC in its draft form. Moreover, adoption of the GPC privacy settings carries no legal weight. If you use a browser or extension with the GPC feature, at this time no websites are obligated to respect its setting – compliance with the GPC is voluntary.

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How to block social media apps from yourself to stop distractions and be more productive

social media apps
You can block social media apps from yourself with the help of several apps and plug-ins.

  • If you want to block social media apps from yourself, there are dozens of apps, extensions, and tools you can use.
  • We’ve picked out three tools to block any website or app — Freedom, StayFocusd, and RescueTime — which are perfect for blocking social media.
  • Blocking social media apps can save you time, stop distractions, and protect your mental health.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Social media can be addictive, and we’ve all had those moments when peeling our eyes away from Twitter or YouTube feels impossible.

But if your social media use is becoming a problem, you might want to consider downloading an app or browser extension to limit your time on sites that hinder your productivity.

How to block social media apps from yourself 

Here are three different tools that let you block social media sites from yourself and gain back your time. 

Using phone
Social media can be fun, but stressful.

Social media blocker #1: Freedom (app)

Freedom is one of the most popular social media blocker apps available right now. It can be used on smartphones, tablets, and computers alike, and is compatible with Windows, Android, Mac/iOS, and Chrome devices. There are a handful of browser extensions that can be used alongside Freedom for additional leverage. 

Freedom’s main appeal is that it allows users to set their own limits: you can block specific websites, block all websites except for specific ones you need, or block the entire internet. It also allows you to schedule specific times in which you’re allowed to use specific sites, as well as log how much time you spend on each website.

Freedom is free to use for the first seven sessions, after which you’ll be asked to pay for a subscription in order to keep using it.

Social media blocker #2: StayFocusd (browser extension)

StayFocusd is a free browser extension that controls the amount of time you can spend on specific websites each day. It’s currently only available for Google Chrome, meaning it won’t work on other web browsers like Firefox or Microsoft Edge. The downside to this is you can easily switch to another browser without StayFocusd installed. 

StayFocusd, like its name implies, restricts the time users can spend on specific websites, with the goal of keeping you focused. After users meet their daily time limit for the sites in question, StayFocusd will lock them out of those websites for the rest of the day.

There’s also a strict “Nuclear Option” that prevents you from undoing the restrictions you set, so make sure you’re certain and don’t accidentally add on any extra zeros to the time limit (in hours).  

Its site-blocking abilities are quite powerful, too – you can use it to block specific sites, as well as individual website pages, paths, and content hosted on an individual page (like photos or videos). It also syncs to all of your other devices, so that you can’t circumvent its software by opening up unwanted sites on another device.

Social media blocker #3: RescueTime (app and browser extension)

RescueTime is an app and browser plug-in that automatically tracks the amount of time users spend on websites, documents, and other programs. The app is available on Windows, Android, Mac/iOS, Chrome, and Linux devices, and its browser plug-in can be used on Chrome, Firefox, and Brave. Best of all, you can add it to as many devices as you want.

RescueTime not only blocks specific websites for specific periods of time, it also allows users to take advantage of other productivity tools, such as goal-setting exercises and reports on how much time is spent on each site, in addition to the Productivity Challenge coursepack. It can also be integrated with many other applications, such as Slack and Calendar.

RescueTime is free for the first 14 days of use, after which you’ll need to pay for a subscription in order to continue using it.

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

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