Online Tracking: Someone’s Following You?
Ever felt like advertisements are following you from web pages to your social media feeds? The answer is yes. You are being tracked online and you’re not alone. We all are.
When you browse the internet, you leave behind the digital footprints of your activities online. The websites you visit and the links you click are tracked with the help of cookies. While this type of browser tracking poses no serious threat to your online security, it’s important for you to understand why and how online data is tracked and used.
Internet tracking, also known as digital tracking, data tracking, or web tracking, is a watch on how users engage with content online and an analysis of their online behavior. This is generally done to improve browsing experience and make it more personalized, with advertisements pouring in to target us with the products and services we’ve been searching for, among other rationales.
Here are the other reasons why websites track us:
- To generate revenue streams: Certain websites not only store your user data, but they may also sell it to advertising companies looking to target those who have recently searched for their category of products/services.
- To analyze consumer behaviour: Businesses use website analytics to understand what consumers engage with or which keywords are searched most on their sites. This helps develop more focused content strategies or product releases.
- To monitor a website’s usability: Keeping a watch on how visitors engage with a site can help companies highlight and correct any areas they’re falling short of.
- To help aid law enforcement: Some law enforcement agencies monitor online user activities to spy on suspicious behaviours.
Though websites can track us in many ways, cookies remain among the most used data-tracking tools today. Also known as HTTP cookies or tracking cookies, it is essentially a storage file on the way you interact with a specific site; recording everything from the products you’ve added to your cart on e-commerce sites to the articles you read, links you click and even language you select.
Should you be worried about data tracking?
Yes, when it comes to data tracking you should be concerned about your data security, where your data is stored and who has access to it. This is because the more freely you share your data — accepting all cookies —the farther your data goes out of hands. At its worst, it can result in data being shared with third parties and stored in databases susceptible to cyber threats, opening a can of internet privacy issues.
At the end of the day, every individual values their privacy differently and if you want to safeguard your data then here are a few measures you can follow to avoid potential misuse:
- Opt out of cookies entirely by enabling the Do Not Track setting in your browser. Most browsers disable this feature by default, but it can be activated from the privacy settings.
- As some sites may not honour the disabled request, you can avoid cookies altogether by browsing in incognito mode. This will prevent any cookies from being saved to your web browser.
- Whenever you visit a new website, click the decline button when it asks your permission to use cookie tracking. However, your IP address will still be viewable to all sites you visit.
- Use Tracker and Ad Blockers. These browser plug-ins are meant to stop internet trackers from collecting your information. Some popular examples include Privacy Badger, DuckDuckGo, Ghostery, Adblock Plus and more.
- When browsing always look for “HTTPS” at the beginning of the URLs you intend to visit. This indicates that your data is being handled by a secure site.
- Consider installing VPN (Virtual Private Network). It encrypts your internet traffic and identity online, making it harder for third parties to break in and steal your data.
By following these simple habits, you can limit your data from being collected unwillingly. Happy and Safe Browsing the next time you log in!