by Terry Young
Is there really such a thing?
Every day that people are online they are being bombarded by spam, banner ads and popups. Creepier are the banners or popups for things you recently looked for, or for sites that you visited.
Many people wonder "How do they know?" The cold fact is that wherever you go online, something is tracking you, recording the sites you visit and what you looked at and shopped for.
There are two main ways you can be tracked.
1. On your device - When you visit any site, it leaves some data on your device, called a cookie.
A VPN is a private network which encrypts your data
so your ISP can't record where you go.
It also masks your IP address, hiding your location.
But, cookies are also how the targeted ads for things you have looked at function. When you visit a commercial site like Amazon, Walmart, etc., a second cookie is set.
This cookie is for an advertising network they subscribe to, such as doubleclick.net, and contains information on what you looked at. When you later visit another site which uses doubleclick.net to show ads, that cookie is accessed, and you see the same product(s) from the original site. The hope is that you will go back and complete the purchase.
Luckily, cookies only show on that browser and device. You can also delete them easily.
2. Online - Unlike cookies, data recorded online goes across devices and browsers.
When you visit a site, they record information about you on their server, like your IP address, what you looked for, pages you visited, what you added to your cart, etc. If you are signed into an account on that site, this data is linked to you, and used to retain cart items, or send advertising emails if you don't visit for a while.
Search engines also retain data on search history, map locations, and videos you have watched. Unlike cookies, the only way you can remove this data is to opt-out through the websites themselves.
What can you do? Several browsers now have 'privacy' mode, which stop advertising cookies being set. However, you are still not private. Web servers and your ISP can still record where you go.
To prevent that, you can subscribe to a VPN.
A VPN is a private network which encrypts your data so your ISP can't record where you go. It also masks your IP address, hiding your location.
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Terry Young is the founder and CEO of Internet Marketing and Design. Since 1997,