You’re being followed online. Trackers follow you across the web, collecting and selling personal information like the articles you read, your favorite sites, your Facebook friends, your buying habits, and the videos you watch to build super-detailed profiles about you. Companies use these profiles for things ranging from merely annoying, like targeted online ads, to scary, like determining your creditworthiness or hireability. Trackers are invisible, but they’re there.
Think about how uncomfortable you’d be if this type of tracking happened in real life. Imagine a complete stranger hovering over your shoulder as you search the web, monitoring all of your online behavior: taking notes on the pictures you upload, the things you like on Facebook, the sites you visit most, the things you like to buy, where you live, and more. This person will take your personal information and sell it to another complete stranger, making money off something that you never agreed to share in the first place.
How does online tracking work? The details.
More than a quarter–26.3%–of what your browser does when you load a website is respond to requests for your personal information, leaving the remaining 73.7% for things you want your browser doing, like loading videos, articles, and photos. Google makes 20.28% of all tracking requests on the web, while Facebook makes 18.84% of all tracking requests on the web. (These numbers come from our research of the top 5,000 websites in the US, as determined by Quantcast).
Here’s how the Facebook Like button, for example, can track people as they browse the web (so we’re not talking about tracking on Facebook.com itself, which has a higher level of tracking).
The most common types of trackers are:
- Images, such as 1-pixels: 14%
- iFrames: 14%
- Flash cookies: 5%
Tracking can relate many specific details about a person’s website activity. When these details are combined, they paint a detailed picture of that person’s interests, demographic info, and personal/contact info. Tracking can get information as detailed as where your mouse has been on a page to your sexual orientation. A recent WSJ study examined 1,000 top websites and found that approximately 75 percent of them featured social networking code that can match users’ online identities with their web-browsing activities, and nearly 25% of the web’s 70 most popular sites shared personal data, like name and email address, with third-party companies.
When you visit a website, your browser constructs web pages from files on the first party’s server, as well as from other third party servers. When your browser is downloading and assembling CNN.com, for example, CNN sends you an HTML file that your browser translates into the web page you see. All source tags (like an image tag, for example) require your browser to make requests, some of which go to tracking companies.
When you log into Facebook, you’re setting at least 2 types of cookies: 1), a session cookie (which is temporary); and 2), a more permanent cookie that stays on your machine unless you manually clear your history. Even if you’re not logged in to Facebook while you browse the rest of the web, that second type of cookie can still exist and provide a greater amount of info on you than without it.
Luckily, you can block secret online tracking for free with DoNotTrackMe.
DoNotTrackMe (DNTMe) helps protect user privacy by preventing your browser from ever making tracking requests to companies or ad networks, like Facebook and Google, when you’re on websites. If a user wants to share using these buttons, she can do so, but she gets to choose when to enable sharing (and thus tracking). DNTMe replaces social buttons with safe, identical placeholders that don’t track users; if users want to share, they simply click the button once to re-enable tracking and a second time to share like usual.
You wouldn’t be okay with someone peering over your shoulder in real life, so why should you put up with it on the internet? Stop giving advertisers, identity thieves, and spammers the advantage by blocking online tracking with DNTMe! It’s a simple yet effective browser tool that blocks the tracking capabilities of advertisers, social networks, and data collection companies. It installs in one click, blocks over 600 trackers, and makes web pages load faster.