You know that creepy feeling: When the ads you see online are so specific to what you’ve looked at or even talked about, you want to look over your shoulder to check if someone’s watching.
Well, someone is. Advertisers have many methods of following your every move online. It can be creepy, but more often than not it’s just plain annoying. Suspect someone else is spying? Tap or click for ways to tell if someone is bugging or tracking you.
You can’t completely shut out advertisers, but you can control what information they have access to. And no, browsing in incognito mode isn’t enough to get the job done on its own. Tap or click to learn how secure private browsing really is.
I’ll show you a few simple ways you can shut out advertisers in just a few clicks.
So, how do advertisers decide what to show you?
Your internet behavior dictates the ads you see. Shopping for new winter boots? It won’t take long before ads for different brands start popping up on your phone and computer.
Through a process called retargeting, your data is crunched to give companies a picture of your online behavior. This includes sites you visit, products you add to your cart and ads you click.
Algorithms analyze your visits over time, across the web. One method to help stop your activity from being tracked by advertisers, and other nefarious entities, is to block third-party cookies in your browser.
Blocking in Chrome:
To block cookies in Google Chrome, simply click the three-dot menu in the upper right corner and choose Settings.
Scroll down and tap Advanced, then scroll to Privacy and security and click Site settings. Tap on the
Cookies and site data option and enable Block third-party cookies.
RELATED: Social media is a goldmine for advertisers. Tap or click to control what they can find out from your Facebook profile.
Block Cookies in Edge:
For Edge users, check out Microsoft’s tutorial.
Block in Mozilla Firefox:
To ensure third-party cookies are blocked using Mozilla Firefox, tap on the three-line menu in the top right corner, then click on Options.
Choose Privacy and Security from the Options tab on the left, then click on the Custom option under Content Blocking in the right tab.
Select Cookies, then All third-party cookies (may cause websites to break).
Block in Opera:
Need to learn how to manage your cookies in Opera? Here’s a quick tutorial.
Blocking third-party cookies will help keep your browsing more private, though it won’t completely stop advertisers from tracking you as they are adept at finding sneaky methods to follow you.
2. Use private or incognito modes
If you’re shopping or searching for products online, switch your browser to incognito mode. This alone isn’t enough to keep out adversiters, but it will help. This “private” mode removes most cookies collected when you load a webpage.
Chrome & Firefox:
To use Incognito Mode in both Chrome and Firefox, tap the menu (three-dot or line, respectively, on the top right corner of the browser), then New Incognito Window.
Open Opera and click on Menu in the top-left corner. Click on New private window.
To browse in private using Edge, click on the three-dot menu and choose New InPrivate window.
Although private browsing is not a perfect solution, it can help reduce tracking.
3. Consider an alternative to Google
Ditching your current search engine may further aid in stopping advertisers from tracking you. One option is DuckDuckGo. Funny name aside, this search engine means business — it allows you to search the internet but also work to protect your privacy. There’s no tracking, no collecting and no sharing of your personal information. Tap or click to learn more about DuckDuckGo.
The best part of using DuckDuckGo is that you don’t have to download or install anything. You can choose to add it to your Chrome browser as an extension or visit DuckDuckGo.com and enter your search term. That’s it.
4. Take a hard look at your settings
Double-check your security and privacy settings in accounts such as Facebook or Google to help stop advertisers from tracking you. It is essential that you keep an eye on settings that include permissions, cookies and site data. Tap or click to learn how to stop Google from tracking you, for good.
With these settings you can control what info websites can use and what content they can show you; however, there is no guarantee you will save yourself from being tracked by all advertisers.
5. Remove your info from data broker sites
You may be wondering what a data broker site is. It is a website that sells all kinds of information on consumers, like you, to businesses willing to pay.
Removing your information from shady sites like these is crucial. Tap or click to learn exactly how to do it.
The sheer amount of data collected will make your skin crawl. It includes:
- Websites you visit
- Whom you connect with online
6. Use a VPN
A virtual private network, or VPN, is one of the best methods for shutting out pesky advertisers. VPNs increase your privacy and security by encrypting your data, concealing your online activities and manipulating your IP address to make it appear information is coming from a different location.
Together, these steps prevent retargeting as advertisers can’t tell where your internet activity is coming from, providing you with the anonymity you deserve.
BONUS TIP FOR EXTRA KNOW-HOW: 5 things you must do to protect your home from hackers
Smart home gadgets have become insanely popular in recent years — and it’s easy to see why. They make our lives easier and let us interact with our tech in ways we never thought possible.
But our Internet of Things devices have a weakness that’s concerning some privacy advocates. Since each gadget has an internet connection, these devices can act as gateways for hackers to attack home networks, and most IoT devices aren’t secure enough.
Now, the FBI has stepped in to warn consumers about the dangers of unsecured smart home devices.
What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.
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Learn about all the latest technology on The Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.