How Websites Are Tracking You Online?
When online we should all expect a certain amount of tracking, and in many cases tracking helps keep us safe, and makes our lives online easier for example with regards to websites knowing who we are when we log in. However, it is becoming scary how many websites are tracking us whilst we are online, and there are even tracking networks that build profiles of our online activity. You may have seen this in action when you were recently online with regards to advertisements. If you visited a certain website, and then saw adverts for that very website pop up later. This form of tracking is done by advertising networks who track people when online in order to target specific adverts. Although tracking can be beneficial, it may also seem like a violation of our privacy. If you do not yet have a VPN, and are concerned then, read on to discover 4 ways how websites track you online.
- IP Address
Your IP address is like your ‘name’ when you are on the internet. It is how you are identified, and it is the simplest way that websites can see who you are. IP addresses can also allow websites to work out where you are geographically. Typically, IP addresses are not used by websites to track people over time because they can change, and also because multiple people can use the same IP address. However, when combined with other online tracking techniques, IP addresses can help websites track you whilst you, and where you are geographically, when online.
- Cookies and Tracking Scripts
Cookies are bits of information that websites can store in your browser, and they can be really helpful. For example they enable websites to remember your log in details to save you time when logging in. Cookies also can track your browsing activity when you are on a website online. This is actually helpful for the websites developers because it enables them to see how you use the site, and therefore gives them the ability to change the site to improve your experience in the future. However, cookies from third parties are often not so innocent. Third party cookies enable websites to track your browsing history across various sites. Third party cookies also enable various websites to link up and develop a tracking script of your online browsing. Facebook uses a similar kind of tracking script in the form of a cookie in order to save your login details, and to know when you ‘Like’ a certain site or product in order to inform advertisers.
- Super Cookies
It is possible to delete your browsers cookies, but this may not be the final solution to preventing online tracking. Super cookies are becoming more common place and these things can store your online browsing data in many different places, and in many different formats. One interesting new tracking method uses color pixels to track users online. When super cookies are in play, if you delete a cookie in one location, websites can get the deleted cookie information from other locations. This means that your browsing history can be repopulated, and websites can track you online once more. It is very hard to overcome a super cookie.
- HTTP Referrer
Links within websites are passed on between websites that you access by your browser. For example, if you click on a link for another website within an article, then the website you are sent to can see the address of the website where the article was where you originally came from. The information about the website link and such like is put in the HTTP referrer header. This HTTP referrer header can also be sent to other websites. For example when a webpage’s content is loading, your browser, via the HTTP referrer header, can tell advertisers and online trackers linked to that webpage, what website it is you are looking at. This is how adverts for a certain site can pop up even after we have left the site itself.