The majority of all people who browse the internet are aware that some level of tracking occurs online. In fact, we likely agree to some of the trackings every time we accept cookies from a website. This tracking monitors our online internet browsing in attempts to promote similar products as advertising at a later time. Essentially, it’s like watching a shopper browse a store and then sell those items at the checkout.
Understanding how our data is collected, however, is likely a bit vague for most users. The term web tracking may not be something you’re familiar with at all. In order to check whether you’re tracked online, you first need to understand what it is and how it influences our online interactions.
The Key Idea Behind Website Tracking
Simply put, website tracking is the collection of information about site users to monitor their online behavior. It’s used by many different services but namely impacts the digital advertising industry. A 2017 study found that 79% of websites use trackers to collect various user data.
Without this tracking functionality, your experience online would be far less personalized. And while this personalization is often helpful (sometimes it’s so accurate it’s scary), the lack of transparency is where it becomes a concern. To confirm whether your information is currently being tracked online, here are five easy ways to tell:
Completely revolutionizing the way we browse online, Panopticlick is designed to assess your current browser set up to measure how many trackers monitor your online sessions. These assessments include add-ons and extensions and offer detailed configuration features that make your browser more noticeable.
To get started, click the ‘test your browser’ button on the main page. Wait while the analysis runs and then show you the different levels of tracking based on your website session. It’s common for your browser to reload and refresh multiple times while running the scan. Once finished, make any changes to your security settings and extensions.
This browser extension blocks over 2,000 individual trackers from your browsing history, preventing further tracking from occurring. It’s simple to use and can be installed on a variety of browsers. Currently, you can apply this extension to Opera, Firefox, and Chrome. Once installed, you’ll be able to visually see a list of trackers presently open and accessible on your browser. You’ll be able to see when a tracker connects to the site. These also include common extensions for work or school, so be mindful about blocking or removing them.
This website serves as a visual aid to the current online trackers monitoring your usage online. It highlights the tangled interface of trackers between the individual sites you visit (for example, the times you’ve tried to type find a sugar daddy and the ads you’ve seen on Google shortly after). It was initially only available for Firefox users as a privacy tool but has now become available as an open-source version on Chrome.
To use this website, add the Lightbeam extension page to your browser. You’ll want to click on the icon at the top right corner of your browser to view the page. Initially, you’ll see an empty graph. Once you’ve started visiting your favorite sites or networks, a web of tracking will begin to appear. Each site is added to the chart with any associated trackers, creating a tangled web of lines as your history unfolds.
Am I Unique?
This tracker analyzer works to establish your unique fingerprint in browser broadcasts. These methods are frequently used to identify you online and can be evaluated against its own database. This program will add a four-month cookie on to your browser to continue monitoring your fingerprint. Over time, you can head to the site to determine whether changes have occurred in your fingerprint and whether you’ve become more or less unique based on your browsing.
While a visual aid is helpful, having an interactive take on tracking can help you truly understand the impact. Trackography is an open-source project trying to highlight the global tracking industry visually. You’ll be able to view what companies are currently tracking you online and where the hosting occurs for each, view the servers for each website you’re visiting, and understand how tracking companies handle the data they receive (as they relate to their privacy policies). It brings a visual reference to a complicated subject to understand.
Select your host nation (the country you currently live in) from their list to get started. You’ll also want to select the media website you’d like to connect to. You’ll notice the connection lines forming immediately after your selection. These lines illustrate the path your data takes globally and the various locations that your data travels through before reaching its final destination.
Can you prevent online trackers?
Online tracking seems to be expected as our dependence on the internet continues to climb. It doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to avoid the trackers from accessing your activities; you simply have to be proactive. Finding software to prevent your fingerprint from being shared is possible as browsers lock down digital fingerprint tracking. Look for a reputable browser that limits this activity (avoid popular browsers like Google, Yahoo, and Bing).
Blocking tracking pixels and
is another method of limiting your data from being shared online. You’ll want to minimize cookies online and regularly enable HTTPS, if possible. Finally, delete any unused or unwanted accounts online, rather than leaving them dormant.