How Can I be Tracked Online And How Can I Stop It?
Online tracking is essentially collecting data about users and their behaviour online. The purpose of it? Gaining insight into users, their behaviour and preferences. For organizations, companies, websites and others, these insights serve as powerful tools for optimising the user experience, for statistical purposes, customization, commerce and for profiling and targeted marketing. Mostly, it is not clear to users when or by whom they are being tracked and for what exact purpose their data is being used. So what do website use to track you? However, there are ways to limit your online tracking. Here are some of the most common methods of online tracking and how to avoid them:
- Cookies: Cookies are small text files that are stored on your computer by websites you visit. They can be used to track your online activity and remember your preferences. To avoid being tracked by cookies, you can use your browser’s private browsing mode, which doesn’t store cookies, or regularly clear your browser’s cookies and cache.
- IP Address: Your IP address is a unique identifier that’s assigned to your computer by your internet service provider (ISP). Websites can use your IP address to track your location and online activity. To avoid being tracked by your IP address, you can use a virtual private network (VPN), which encrypts your online traffic and hides your IP address.
- Social Media: Social media platforms collect data about your activity, including your likes, comments, and shares. They also track your location if you’ve given them permission to do so. To limit your social media tracking, you can adjust your privacy settings and use ad-blocking extensions in your web browser.
- Browser Fingerprinting: Browser fingerprinting is a technique that uses information about your browser and device to create a unique identifier. This identifier can be used to track your online activity across different websites. To avoid being tracked by browser fingerprinting, you can use privacy-focused web browsers like Brave or Firefox and use browser extensions like Privacy Badger or uBlock Origin to block browser fingerprinting.
- Email Tracking: Some email services and marketing tools allow senders to track when you open an email and click on links within the email. To avoid being tracked by email, you can disable image loading in your email client, use encrypted email services, and avoid clicking on links in suspicious emails.
Here you can check what your browser knows and can reveal about you, try AmIUnique to learn how identifiable you are online or Panopticlick to see how safe your browser is against tracking. Disconnect can help you protect your privacy on many platforms, by blocking most known advertising and data collecting services.
In the digital age, data is extremely valuable and can be used for many things, all of which are maybe not something you’d want to volunteer your data for. The methods for tracking users are always evolving and getting more creative. And while tracking isn’t necessary, data collection has become a norm for many sites on the web.
In conclusion, online tracking is a common occurrence, but there are ways to limit your online tracking. By using a combination of privacy-focused web browsers, browser extensions, and virtual private networks, you can significantly reduce your online tracking and protect your privacy online. Additionally, being cautious about the information you share online and regularly reviewing your privacy settings can also help protect your online privacy.