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How Websites Track Your Online Activities

Wherever you go online, you share information. Besides this, someone is tracking your activity. Creepy, right? But this is how the internet works, especially in this modern digital society. Too many methods are used to track people online, and some of them are hard to counter. Luckily, there are many things you can do to greatly improve your online anonymity and make the “tracking process” challenging.

Have you ever wondered what’s all about those ads on the internet, like the ones on Amazon, or Google, or eBay? While surfing the internet, there is this little square on the right corner of the web page, showing you stuff you’ve searched on the internet before. Some people don’t find it weird or dangerous at all. They even like when they encounter these ads because they use it as a reminder to buy the stuff they’ve once looked for. 

Other people have no idea of how this affects their privacy or even exposes them to threats. Most people probably don’t know what information the websites they visit collect about them. They have no idea how these websites collect their data, how they use it, or why they even bother tracking their online activities. In this article, we will learn what is online tracking and how to stop websites from tracking you.

What is online tracking?

A wide variety of websites track every activity the users have on their platforms, including email addresses, credit card info, passwords, and lots more. They carefully analyze the user’s preferences and then make relevant suggestions whenever they revisit the website. They also keep a record of your browsing habits, which they after use to build those ads mentioned above, based on your video preferences, shopping habits, etc. 

Top companies, such as Facebook, Amazon, Google, and YouTube track your internet activities like shopping, videos, friends, etc. It’s the reason why YouTube suggests users related videos to the last ones they’ve watched lately. The same goes for e-commerce sites. Amazon, for example, suggests items you might be interested in based on what you’ve clicked or searched out of their website. 

How do websites track your online activity?

Big websites use different methods to keep tracking users’ online behavior. Here are the methods they use:

Cookies

“This website is using cookies to recommend relevant information” or something like that. But other websites don’t even give you an idea of how they use cookies. They just send users notifications such as “This website uses cookies.” and offer you the possibility of acceptance or decline. We bet that you always hit the “accept” button on all the websites. Then you question yourself, What are cookies?”. 

Cookies are small parts of information which appear in the form of a text and websites stored on your device. What cookies contain? Mostly, they contain preferences linked to users’ preferences based on their online activities and interactions with websites they visit. Cookies may also contain other types of info, such as sensitive details (log-in info), allowing them to store your passwords.

Types of cookies

Basically, there are three types of cookies:

  • Persistent cookies
  • Session cookies
  • Flash cookies 

Persistent cookies can stay on your device for weeks, months, or even years. For people who visit a website for the first time, persistent cookies are saved on their device by default, but you can choose to delete them. These cookies are used to track your online activity, remembering your log-in details, inside bookmarks, language preferences, etc. Once their expiration date is reached, the cookies are deleted mechanically. 

Session cookies on the other hand, are temporary. They are stored on a user’s device only for how long their visit on the website lasts. Once you clear the browser, the cookies are erased. Session cookies are mostly used on ecommerce and shopping sites. 

Flash cookies are totally different. They are not in need of a website, and will remain there even if the cookies are deleted. Online games are using these types of cookies, so users won’t cheat. 

How can you tell if a website is stalking you?

To determine if a website is tracking you or not, install a browser plugin, so you’ll be notified whenever this happens. Or you could use a VPN, which stands for a virtual private network. When you’re using a VPN, all the information transmitted or received is encrypted, preventing cybercriminals from monitoring your online habits. 

Can you stop websites from tracking you?

Yes, you can stop websites from stalking you. Here’s how:

  • Use search engines that don’t track users’ online activities, such as Qwant, Startpage, etc.
  • Whenever you visit a website, make sure to read all the terms and conditions it has (it’s long, we know, but it’s important for your online safety.)
  • Often, clear your browser cache and cookies from your laptop, computer, or smartphone.
  • When accessing the public internet networks, make sure to use a software that encrypts your connections, such as a VPN. This could save you from losing credit card numbers, passwords, or other valuable information.
  • Use many emails for different websites.
  • Adjust your social media platforms privacy settings to match your preference. Limit the number of people who can have access on your profile and other private data. 

Conclusion

These are the best strategies to use and hide your online activity. Monitoring your online habits isn’t mandatory, yet it has become very important in the past years, as cyberattacks increased significantly, studies have shown. The good news is that there are still many useful tools that can help you become more secure while surfing the internet, such as using a VPN. It’s perhaps the best way to create a tunnel and mask your IP address. Premium VPNs are more popular and trustworthy, and this will include using ExpressVPN and NordVPN. 

Keep your conversation and overall online activities private from those who intend to view them. 

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