If you want to remove web tracking, you probably know a few things about how it works. If you don’t, you should learn about it, as your data personal data is at stake.
No matter what you do online, the tracking technology that almost all companies use, learns about your behavior. Then, they try to monetize it. So, your data means money for them.
Now, let’s see how this system works and how to prevent companies from following you.
What is internet tracking?
The best way to define it is as a way to collect and share information about anyone’s online activity. They are cookies, which allow companies to gather relevant information on users’ preferences. So, they can then personalize their content accordingly.
For this, marketers use different types of tracking files, such as website trackers, and beacons. These allow them to know what you do around the internet.
Remember that there are companies that handle this data collection themselves. Still, there are also data brokers, that compile and sell it to third-party companies.
It is time to add that there are two types of tracking: first-party and third-party. The first one is set to remember users’ preferences when they visit a website. These include language settings, location, the preferred type of content, etc.
The second one occurs when other companies than the ones you are using the website follow your activity. In other words, there are also other eyes watching your activity on a specific website.
This kind of tracking helps advertisers tailor their ads to your preferences. This data can go even further if a third party decides to sell the data to other players.
The usual methods to track users are:
- IP address tracking, which does not work for those who do not use a proxy or a VPN
- HTTP cookies
- Web beacons
- Browser fingerprinting
- Canvas fingerprinting
So, there are lots of methods to do this. But why do companies want to do it?
The reason behind tracking systems
All the big companies, and not only, track their users’ online activity. Also, data brokers sell the data they gather to other parties. Thus, the latter make sure they tailor their apps to every user’s preferences. Not to mention that they can target them with the right marketing messages for maximum engagement.
You might get a good understanding of what amount of data they get if you download the data Google owns about you. You may have some control over some types of data, such as location. But, in fact, there is no guarantee for this.
Most websites use tracking systems to serve the right ads, to the right audience. This is how they make a living and also keep the content freely available. On the other hand, there are websites that do not show you ads, so they do not harvest data. Instead, they ask you to pay for the content.
In Europe, the GDPR regulations give internet users more control over how their data is collected and shared. The regulations force websites to inform users about their tracking methods. But not all the countries in the world have such rules.
How to remove web tracking?
Of course, there are ways to prevent this practice, if you are aware of how important it is to keep your data safe. Here are a few of them:
- Adjust your browser settings. Firefox blocks third-party cookies by default. For Chrome and Edge, you can set this option. In Google’s browser, go to Settings > Privacy and Security > Third-party cookies. Then, turn on the toggle button next to Send a “Do Not Track” request with your browsing traffic. You will get this message: Enabling “Do Not Track” means that a request will be included with your browsing traffic. Any effect depends on whether a website responds to the request, and how the request is interpreted. For example, some websites may respond to this request by showing you ads that aren’t based on other websites you’ve visited. Many websites will still collect and use your browsing data – for example to improve security, to provide content, services, ads, and recommendations on their websites, and to generate reporting statistics. Learn more
- Switch to a secure browser. Here is a list ZDNet put together.
- Use anti-tracking software, to find and block trackers.
Of course, clearing cookies and deleting the browser history regularly should be part of your online hygiene. But remember that this is only a temporary fix. You can also get anti-tracking software to add to your secure browsers, to automatically remove web tracking.