How do websites track you?


With the boost of the internet, many computer scientists have found various ways to make the user’s life easier. Ways to cut the load on the server and traffic on the network. These tools are today being used to track the users’ activities and behavior to monitor them and make money. Internet users are tracked because your activities can generate millions of dollars. But most of us don’t know how these websites manage to track you. One day you’re looking for something on a website and the next day you see an ad about it.
In this post we’ll discuss about Internet tracking. How do websites know everything about you. how do websites track you? Here are the 5 most common ways in which you are tracked every day on the world-wide web.

Cookies:

  • If you don’t know about cookies, you can check our brief introduction post What are cookies?. Cookies are there to ease up the client’s and web server’s work. Today, they are used to track you and your activities.
  • Cookies have sensitive information like your location, your choices and items in your cart in e-commerce websites etc. If an advertising company has contracts with various domains, it can set cookies such that one cookie from A domain can view other cookies from B or C domain and read the details from it. In this way, a website can get some precise information about you.
  • It is also a common knowledge that Airline companies track your cookies and give your prices accordingly. Example: If you’re a regular flyer you’ll get more discounts. If you visit two airline booking websites, the second website can view that you visited another website and shoot up its prices (this can, however be evaded in Incognito mode/ Private session).
  • Some advertising companies also ask websites to store a tracking cookie that has an unique-id. Advertising companies and websites use this id to track how many times you clicked on which ad, so they can deliver you targeted ads in the hope of making some extra bucks.

User history:

  • Google and Bing searches are always stored. They say ‘It is being done to serve you with better results’. However, this results is also being used by Google and Bing to serve you with targeted ads. Example: If a user searches for Puma Shoes on Google, Big Data will help e-commerce websites (enabled with Adsense/YahooBingNetwork) to show Puma Shoes ads on the user’s PC.
  • Instead of showing a tons of ads where the likelihood of you clicking on it is quite low, these search results helps advertising companies narrow down to ads of your choices where chances of user engaging on the ad is more.
  • Get rid of your search history ASAP.

Malware:

  • Malicious Softwares or malware as, they’re generally called, are programs that either makes your system behave abnormally or track all your activities on the internet.
  • They can be programmed to log and monitor everything you do on the internet and can also be configured to send all the results to the attacker.
  • The attacker who planted the malware in the first place can either sell your information and activities to some Advertising companies or use it for his personal purposes.
  • Malware are usually installed on the user’s machine without their knowledge. They can be masqueraded as some other software to make the user install it.
  • Some programs install themselves while you’re installing the software you want and the user just believes that the program is needed by software hence doesn’t look into it later on.

Mobile phone apps:

  • Thousands of apps are developed and launched every day since the sudden expansion of mobile phone industries. Some of these apps also track your location or copy your contacts or access your log history.
  • Before installing any app, we grant the app all the permissions it asks for. Sometimes simple apps like calling or flashlight apps ask for location permissions even though they don’t need it.
  • CyberSecurity expert Gary Miliefsky explained this in this video:
  • You can check out MyPermissions app which gives you an alert when any app or websites try to gain your information. This app is available in PlayStore and AppStore.
  • SnoopWall also released a Privacy app in PlayStore.

Social Media Buttons:

  • The next time you go on any website and click the small Facebook like button or Retweet button or +1 button, the social networks know you were there.
  • Then you’ll start seeing posts related to that item on your social networking sites.
  • Various tracking extensions like Ghostery or Disconnect also block these buttons so the social networking websites won’t know you visited these websites.

To avoid being tracked you can download Chrome Extensions or Firefox Addons. These small tools will give you a detailed summary of trackers before blocking them.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *