Somebody’s Watching You: 6 Tips to Stop Being Tracked Online

Have you ever talked about a specific topic with a friend only to have a related advertisement pop up on your phone minutes later? While this phenomenon can seem purely coincidental, it’s not.

Internet tracking is nothing new. In fact, any human being with a smartphone, computer, laptop, or device that connects them to the internet is susceptible to tracking. While this can seem like a scary “Big Brother” type of approach, the internet actually uses this tracking data to enhance your experience on certain websites and other parts of the internet.

It’s extremely rare for the big brains behind internet programming to steal your information so, for the most part, internet tracking is something that’s on the backburner in most people’s lives — until it isn’t. Here, we’re overviewing the common ways online users are tracked today and tips to avoid being followed online, if you so choose.

How am I tracked online?

While your information may be safe on the surface level of internet tracking, that doesn’t mean that it’s completely secure from third parties and cybercriminals. In fact, user data is often shared with these third parties in order to hack into a user’s personal accounts and gain access to sensitive information.

Some of the most common ways users can be tracked are:
  • Through IP addresses
  • Cursor tracking software
  • Cross-tracking (information from several different devices under one owner)
  • Accounts that are visited frequently via devices
  • Email exchanges and search history
So, how do you protect your privacy to the best of your ability? In the day and age of internet tracking, is there a way to truly keep your information safe? Luckily for you, there are several ways you can safeguard your information on the digital scape.

Tips to stop online tracking

Online tracking is, for the most part, unavoidable. However, you can still ensure the safety of your information as you share on the internet. By utilizing these tips, you’ll be on the road to a safer and more secure online experience.

1. Adjust your privacy settings

While some internet tracking is ultimately inevitable, there are still several ways to keep your information and accounts private. On most internet browsers, there’s a way to adjust your privacy settings to fit your needs and comfort levels.

On mobile devices: Disable location services when they are unneeded and not in use

On computers: Go into your internet browser and comb through the sites that may have permission to track you

On smart TVs: Opt-out of apps and services that you may no want monitoring your activity

2. Set your devices to “do not track”

This may be a no-brainer. But with a task this simple, it can be easy to overlook. In your browser settings, you can enable “do not track” to keep your information safe in the digital space. However, it’s important to remember that this is merely a request to websites, and may not be honored by certain sites and browsers.

3. Stay private when it comes to WiFi

WiFi can be a total lifesaver, especially when you’re on the go. However, connecting to public WiFi may up your chances of encountering hacking attacks and cybercriminals. That’s why staying private on Wifi can be a great decision when it comes to safeguarding your information. This can be achieved through using a VPN (virtual private network), which is a personalized, encrypted network that stays between you and your device.

4. Don’t allow sites to save cookies

No, not the homemade goodies you leave for Santa. Cookies, in internet terms, are small blocks of data created by a web server while a user is browsing a website. When visiting a new website, simply click “no” when you’re asked for permission to collect cookies. While this may disable certain website features, it’s worth it to ensure you and your device are safe from technological harm.

5. Use internet tracking blockers

On internet browsers, there are several types of plug-ins that can help protect your information from internet tracking. A tracker blocker denies internet tracking from browsers or websites, while an ad blocker protects your device from spam and targeted advertisements as a result of internet tracking.

6. Be mindful of how you surf the web

As you surf the web, the last thing on your mind may be things like encryption, site security, and (of course) internet tracking. However, ensuring that the sites you are visiting are safe is a key part to avoid being tracked online. To do this, try using an incognito tab which will save no cookies to your browser. In the same way, ensure your site features an “HTTPS” at the beginning of a site’s URL, as this is an indication of a safe and secure site.

When it comes to using the internet, safety should be the number one priority. Whether you’re trying to safeguard information, or just wary of internet tracking in general, taking the necessary steps to limit online tracking can make you feel safer as you surf the web. For more information and an overview of being tracked online, pore over the infographic below, courtesy of Norton.

This infographic highlights what internet tracking is, plus common methods for internet tracking and tips to stop being followed online: For perspective, Google tracks almost 80 percent of all web traffic, with its methods evolving away from third-party cookies to Federated Learning of Cohorts. And while this doesn’t necessarily mean our data collected is at risk, shouldn’t we at least know how it could be and how to safeguard it, if we so choose?
The good, the bad, and the ugly of internet tracking
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