Almost every website you visit or mobile app you open is either tracking you or harvesting your browsing activity for commercial services. Research shows that an average website has a dozen or so internal and third-party trackers and cookies installed to help collect information from visitors. You may not appreciate the importance of protecting your privacy unless you get the full picture of what is being logged about you.
Here are some of the most alarming data points that online trackers and data harvesting cookies use to collect data from ordinary web users on a day-to-day basis:
It might appear strange or unnecessary for the news or online shopping website you opened to want to know your exact location. However, digging into what most commercial data logging and tracking cookies collect shows that they put location tracking at the top of the queue. It’s not a surprise that your location is being logged randomly through third-party cookies given its commercial value in terms of location-based advertising.
Your shopping interests
Visit or click on anything that looks like a product or is perceived as such and the shopping tracking bot will log it and use it to display targeted adverts all over the internet for you. Ever wondered how Google or Facebook know what products to put on your timeline and search results?
Your personal details
Your age, gender, marital status, height, weight, and similar details are usually logged and used for commercial purposes even without your knowledge. This kind of logging usually happens when you innocently sign up on a website and enter your details. Some of the websites asking for this kind of information may be interested in selling your data. At the same time, the cookies already installed in your browser from other websites can easily capture the same data.
There is so much more of your personal information, web activity, and other things that are being logged or leaked to third parties without your knowledge on the internet. In some cases, even mobile ISPs are the ones collecting the same data and using it for commercial purposes. At the same time, taking a relaxed approach to your privacy online might make you a soft target for hackers, especially if you happen to use public WiFi.
Protecting your privacy in the USA -tried and tested methods
Here are some of the proven ways to protect your privacy on the internet:
Use a virtual private network
A decade or so ago it would have been impossible to think using a VPN for normal internet usage could become a necessity in the USA. Back then, VPNs were mainly used by big corporate entities, political dissidents, investigative journalists, and government agencies who needed secure and private communication at all times. However, times have changed, especially in the USA where data harvesting, privacy violations, and offshore hacking and fraud are highest.
Using a VPN is one of the surest ways to protect your privacy on the internet in the USA. The question you should ask is which VPN is the best for the USA? A VPN protects your privacy in the following ways:
Data encryption -any data coming to and leaving your internet device will be encrypted until it reaches its destination. This means any data harvesting cookies or third parties on your browser or network cannot make use of it or read it.
Private Internet Access– A VPN passes your internet data through a private network of servers (more of a private internet). This means your data is only visible to your VPN provider and invisible to the rest of the internet.
IP Masking– Trackers use your IP address to determine your exact location when you visit their website. To stop this, your VPN will mask your real IP address and create a new one that belongs to a private server within their network. This makes it impossible for any cookie, third party, or even your internet service provider to know where you are located.
Ad blockers can keep most trackers and advertising cookies at bay. You can find and install different types of ad blockers as browser extensions and have them turned on whenever you want to block certain websites from tracking you or installing cookies on your browser. However, some websites rely on advertising revenue to keep their content free and may block you from accessing their content if you have an ad blocker.
All in all, protecting your privacy online comes down to the tools you use and how you use them. Having a VPN, blocking ads, and limiting the amount of information you share on the internet is crucial in this age of data harvesting and tracking. Stay Private!