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 The Tracking Industry – What It Is and How To Protect Yourself

The Tracking Industry – What It Is and How To Protect Yourself

Every day we look at the news, we hear about online privacy and how websites and apps are tracking us. We keep being told that we should be more careful with the data we share online and how we browse the internet to avoid being tracked. It becomes challenging as businesses, websites, and apps use many clever tactics to track users. So, how are you being tracked, and what can you do to stop it?

While it’s easy enough to tell you to protect yourself by using a location-specific proxy, like a Brazil proxy, such as the ones available from Smartproxy, there’s more you need to know to be able to protect yourself.

In this article, we’ll be covering the following topics regarding online tracking:

  • What is the online tracking industry
  • Types of online tracking
  • Why is tracking a threat
  • Ways to protect yourself

What Is the Online Tracking Industry?

Have you ever looked at shoes online but decided not to buy them just to see them in the display ads on the different platforms you visit? Websites and apps track users in various ways to get an insight into their online behaviors to create more personalized ads and content. As innocent as this may sound, the amount of information they can collect is astonishing.

For example, if you have the GPS on your phone switched on and give certain apps access to it, those apps can track your location. Suppose you were to switch your GPS off, then apps and websites can still use your IP address to track your location. By tracking your location, these businesses can see exactly where you go, which shops you visit, restaurants or bars you frequent, and even where you spend the night. Scary, isn’t it?

Types Of Online Tracking

Online bots are becoming more prominent, and businesses and individuals have started automating more activities. However, these bot owners know exactly how they can be tracked and implement measures to protect their bots. Here are some of the most common tracking practices.

Browser Fingerprinting

Your browser contains a lot of your unique information as is. From the attached user agent, websites can see which browser you’re using, the version of your browser, any plug-ins or add-ons that are installed, and details of your device such as the operating system, graphics card, location, time zone, language and more. By collecting and stitching together these unique identifiers of your browser, websites can then use this fingerprint to track all the websites and online platforms you visit.

IP Tracking

Your IP address is unique to you and visible to the websites you visit and the apps you use. Once a website has your IP address, they can use it to track your online behaviors and see what websites you visit. Not only that, but your IP address also has a lot of personal information attached, such as your location (accurate within a few meters), your ISP, other devices attached to your network, and sometimes even your particulars.

Cookies

Cookies remain one of the most common data tracking tools being used. Currently, more than 40% of websites use some form of cookie for tracking purposes. Cookies are essentially strings of text stored on your computer after visiting a website. Some can also collect data about how you interact with other websites.

Ways To Protect Yourself

These are just a few of the most common ways to be tracked online. Now that we understand tracking a little better, protecting ourselves becomes easier. First off, we need to address our IP address. Using a proxy, you can hide your IP address and replace it with one from the proxy provider. If you just want to hide your IP and access geo-restricted content, a location-specific proxy, such as a China or Brazil proxy, is a great option.

You can also start using a browser switcher agent. These are add-ons you can install on your browser to change how your user agent appears on websites. Along with addressing the user agent on your browser, you can also set your browser to not track you by disabling this within the settings. While not always effective on its own, this option can be useful when paired with other measures. Better yet, start using a browser that doesn’t track activity, such as Tor browser or Duck-Duck-Go.

You also need to make sure that you delete your browsing history, cache, and cookies frequently to remove other potential trackers. There are a few different apps and add-ons you can use to see if you’re being tracked even after clearing the cookies. Some of these include Privacy Badger and Disconnect.

Final Thoughts

Online tracking is a disturbing reality. And while tech-savvy bot owners can protect their bots by implementing different measures, what about the rest of us? We also need to do as much as possible such as using proxies, such as a Brazil proxy, browser user agent switchers, and other tools to keep websites from tracking us.

Richard Ellis

Richard Ellis

Richard Ellis is a Eurogamer reporter who is interested in streaming, people and communities, and providing marginalized individuals a voice.
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