I was hoping I could get some advice as to how to clean up my online footprint, leave less information out there and give as little satisfaction as possible to the hordes of companies gorging themselves on everyone's data, preferences, information, habits, etc.
Could someone give me a little explanation about how TOR or VPNs work and any other ways to help retain some privacy?
When you use the internet, each time you click on a link to open a new page, you send a signal to the website you’re accessing saying something like “hey, show me the page where I can watch that cool new video”. In internet terms, this is called a request.
Each of these requests contains a unique identification number called an “IP address”, which is basically your online mailing address when you’re connected. It’s used to say to the internet “hey, this request came from here, send any pages I request to this address”. Because this request contains your location, websites are able to find out where you’re located and block you from accessing certain information.
Cookies CAN be used for malicious purposes though. Since they store information about a user's browsing preferences and history, both on a specific site and browsing among several sites, cookies can be used to act as a form of spyware. Many anti-spyware products are well aware of this problem and routinely flag cookies as candidates for deletion after standard virus and/or spyware scans.See here for some privacy issues and concerns.
I don't do all this stuff though. Millions of other common non-IT people will never bother doing this stuff and leave everything on default. It's those people corporations want information from anyway. They are the most predictable buyers and steer the economy in a way.