We hear about “being tracked” online, but do you know how far advertisers are able to go?
Oftentimes, people hear of tracking and think of cookies. That’s not wrong. Cookies, placed by third parties and by the websites themselves, know whether we’ve been to a specific website. But cookies are really just the beginning.
Advertisers and the tracking companies they employee are able to gather all sorts of information about you, such as the websites you frequent and what kind of products you’re interested — and even some even scarier stuff like political views, health problems, and personal finances.
They do this by watching the purchases we make online, installing “social buttons,” cookies, and other tools. The social buttons tool is particularly concerning. Those little Facebook “like” counters and other buttons can collect information about what websites you visit without you having to be logged into your account.
But you have options to fight this. Some browsers have Do Not Track features that tell websites to do just that: stop tracking you. You can also install ad blockers, which remove ads from the websites you visit altogether.