These days, people are tracked everywhere they go online. Companies want to collect as much data as they possibly can about internet users, and hackers are always looking for opportunities to breach their defenses.
Recently, there have been a number of high-profile stories that have gone viral discussing just how much the average person is being tracked. The level of detail that corporations now have about individual users is downright scary.
Remember, even if you avoid the major platforms like Google and Facebook entirely, these behemoths have vast third-party networks of websites that still track you and provide them with data. So what can you do?
Tracking IDs are the traditional way that third-party websites keep tabs on who you are and what you’re doing. Typically, they take the form of cookies – small files stored in your browser that you can delete periodically. Many people like cookies because they negate the need to continually reload web pages, speeding up surfing of the internet. But they are also a liability if you care about privacy. Through them, brands and other organizations can see exactly where you are going and what you are doing.
One way to stop this is to go into your browser settings and prevent advertisers from leaving cookies on your computer. If you try this approach, you’ll stop transferring data to them that they can use to market to you. However, there are some tradeoffs. So, for example, web pages will load more slowly if you disallow pre-caching on your browser. You’ll also have to put up with less targeted ads, unless you have an ad-blocker.
Even if you disabled cookies, brands and advertisers can still track you using your location IDs. These are little packets of data that give you geolocation – usually because you’ve turned on your phone’s GPS system.
Service providers can track your location regardless of your setting by using signal triangulation. The estimate your position by timing how long it takes to send a signal from various masts to your phone and then receive it back again.
In many countries, you have the right to hide your location. If you’re using a home computer and you don’t want anybody to know how you are connecting to the internet, your best bet is to use a virtual private network (VPN). These mask your IP address and prevent third-party companies from determining your precise location. Look for a VPN review on the services that you want to use to check if it is suitable.
Signing Into Accounts
Once you sign into an account, it makes it much easier for companies to track you. In some situations, like Facebook, you need to sign into your account to use the service. There’s no way around that. On Google, you don’t have to sign in, but the search giant uses every opportunity available to convince you that you should.
If you don’t like individual companies tracking you, resist the urge to sign in. Also, use services from different companies that are more committed to protecting privacy.