It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And it looks like this year will be another year of online shopping for the holidays. A perfect time for social media, shopping sites and cyber criminals to cash in on all the extra data going around the web.
Do you know about the 12 ways of being tracked online? Read on and find out what you can do about it:
1) Social media websites share your information with others: Facebook, Google, Twitter, PayPal, Reddit.
– You will have to dig through the settings to enable ‘do not track’ or ‘opt out’.
2) Shopping sites sell and share customer information to third-parties: Marriott hotels, Samsung, Roomba, T-mobile, and hundreds more.
– Avoid creating account profiles and shop as a guest instead.
3) Websites leave third-party cookies or tracking cookies that store your browsing history over a long period of time and across many pages.
– Don’t allow cookies, or choose only for functional cookies. Delete your cookies at the end of your browsing session.
4) Your internet service provider can see everything you do online. In the USA this data will be collected and sold. EU privacy laws forbids this.
– Use a VPN to encrypt all your internet traffic.
5) Your IP address can be read by anyone you come in contact with online; Websites you visit, read your IP address and can tell if you have visited before, what your location is and even link multiple devices that use the same connection.
– Use a VPN to mask your IP address.
6) GPS tracking on mobile devices. Google Timeline keeps a very detailed log of your whereabouts 24/7. But also, other apps and websites you give your location to can do this; weather apps, for example.
– Turn off your GPS and location sharing on your phone. Go in the advanced settings of your computer’s browser as well to stop location sharing.
7) Account tracking. When you use your Google ID (or a Facebook account) to avoid creating new accounts at shops and sites through a lengthy form, Google (or Facebook) will then track your activity on the new site.
– Avoid creating new accounts, or create one through the lengthy form and your email address.
8) DNS leaks can give away your IP address and location as well. Owners of the servers link your IP address with the names of all the sites you connect to and store this data indefinitely.
– You can test if you have any leaks at DNSLeakTest, because it could defy the point of a VPN if you try to hide your location.
9) WebRTC can transmit data outside an encrypted VPN tunnel through the web browser you’re using.
– Disable WebRTC in your browser (through settings or by using an extension) and then perform a WebRTC Leak Test to be sure.
10) HTTP referrers tell websites the address of the webpage you came from before visiting their site.
– use a browser extension to hide the HTTP referrer address. If you own a website, you can use URL.rw to change the links to others before placing them on your website.
11) Audio files of your voice commands to Siri or Google Assistant are uploaded and saved to Apple and Google’s servers for processing and very likely run through algorithms that look for behavior and patterns.
– Turn off your virtual assistant and disable Google’s voice recording in the settings of your phone (Account Services > Assistant & Voice)
12) Tracking pixels can be embedded in emails, usually hidden within an image or a link. When you open the email, a code within the pixel sends the info back to the sender of the email.
– stop your email from automatically loading images. Look in the settings of your email for ‘Ask before displaying’ external images.