know about browser tracking

What You Need To Know About Browser Tracking

Everything you do online is tracked and monitored at all times. Every time you use the web to browse for a new pair of shoes, look up movie reviews, or book flight tickets, the sites you visit will track your information and browsing habits. It’s simply how the modern internet works.

Although it may seem scary at first glance, browser tracking doesn’t pose a severe threat to your security. It does, however, make it nearly impossible to stay anonymous online.

If you want to improve your online privacy and keep your personal information to yourself, you need to learn more about how browser tracking works and how you can prevent it. So, let’s take a look.

How browser tracking works

Google’s web trackers are present on over 86% of the top 50,000 websites. Facebook’s are present on just under half that number. Adobe, Amazon, Oracle, all these tech giants are tracking almost every site you visit, monitoring what you’re doing on them, how long you’re staying on them, and more. Even smaller websites from your favorite SMB perform browser tracking with the help of cookies, beacons, and fingerprinting. So get a VPN for Google Chrome or any other browser to avoid being tracked.

Cookies

Cookies are the most popular tracking method, and you’ve likely noticed it already. Virtually every site you visit will either notify you or ask for your consent to use cookies before you can continue browsing.

In essence, cookies are blocks of data that sites store on your browser/device. They enable sites to “remember” you and your browsing habits, keep a record of your preferences, and personalize your experience. They can track you from page to page or even site to site. How long they do it depends entirely on the type of cookies a site is using.

Session cookies, for example, are deleted as soon as you close your browser. However, persistent cookies can track you for years on end until you delete them yourself.

Web beacons

Web beacons (also known as tracking pixels) and fingerprinting perform the same tasks as cookies, just in different ways.

Beacons are transparent, 1-pixel by 1-pixel images that your browser downloads from a page’s code. They recognize user activity, tracking their IP address, browser information, time of access, and the like. They’re most commonly used in email marketing as they enable webmasters to know whether a user has opened the email.

Fingerprinting

Fingerprinting is the most advanced form of browser tracking. Instead of adding tags or small pieces of data to your browser, it builds a user profile based on browser and device information. It looks into your operating system, browser extensions, screen resolution, time zone, language, and more to create (and remember) an accurate profile of each website visitor.

What kind of data do websites track?

Companies collect and track immense amounts of data of all kinds. Most commonly, websites will collect:

• Your IP addresses.
• Session length.
• Device information.
• Browsing activity.
• Software information.

Additionally, sites can collect information such as your email address, contact information, credit card information, and more.

Keep in mind that data isn’t solely collected and tracked through cookies, fingerprinting, and web beacons. Sites can collect your data through the online forms you fill in, smartphone apps, virtual assistants, and smart speakers.

Why do sites track your browsing habits?

While it may seem like sites are engaging in browser tracking for malicious reasons, that’s rarely the case. Most commonly, they need to track your browser to ensure that you have a seamless, personalized experience.

Some of the main reasons for browser tracking include:

• Improving site performance

Many sites wouldn’t be able to function properly without some form of tracking. For example, page-to-page tracking enables sites to sync your experience across different pages. It keeps you logged in regardless of how many pages you have open in your browser. It allows you to add new items from different pages to your unified shopping cart.

• Conducting website analytics

Many businesses rely on website analytics to improve the user experience, and they need browser tracking to do so. It enables them to analyze their demographics, monitor their website traffic, assess their marketing campaigns, and more.

• Advertising

Whether you like it or not, advertising is the main reason companies perform browser tracking. It enables them to target their ads better and improve their sales. Without tracking, you wouldn’t get relevant ads on your social media accounts or any websites you visit.

Tips to prevent browser tracking

As mentioned, tracking doesn’t pose a severe threat to your online security, but it does impact your privacy and anonymity. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to avoid browser tracking:

• Disable cookie tracking. Many sites will ask for your permission to use tracking cookies. You can easily opt-out of non-essential cookies.

• Enable “Do Not Track” request. You can activate the “do not track” feature directly in your browser by going to the privacy settings. However, keep in mind that the “do not track” request is voluntary, and some sites might dismiss it.

• Use anti-tracking software. Anti-tracking software will notify you of the sites that use tracking cookies and beacons and block them.

• Use a reliable VPN. A Virtual Private Network encrypts all your data and allows you to browse in almost complete anonymity. It helps you prevent IP-based tracking, ISP monitoring, and up the ante on your online privacy.

• Clear cookies/delete history. Clearing cookies and deleting history regularly will help you get rid of persistent cookies and could even improve your browser performance.

Final thoughts

Browser tracking is an integral part of using the internet. It brings many benefits to webmasters and users alike, improving site performance, offering personalization, enhancing ad targeting, and more. However, it also diminishes your online privacy, so you might want to prevent tracking from staying anonymous.

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