Who’s watching you while you’re shopping? This holiday season you may be getting more of a mouthful of cookies then expected. You may not be aware that when you visit a site you’re actually a part of a complex advertising and marketing mechanism. Very few things on the Internet are completely anonymous. Data collection is inevitable due to the architecture of the internet and much of the data collected is simply used to help sites analyze which offers are popular, but many users would be surprised at the multiple companies involved with nearly every Web site visit and the breadth of the data collected. The good news is there are tips to help control your privacy:
- Most online tracking relies on little bits of data left on your computer called cookies. Use your browser privacy settings to delete those cookies after browsing, or visit the consumer tools page at futureofprivacy.org to find the opt-out links offered by the largest ad networks.
- Download the new version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8, which includes a powerful safety setting that will prevent your computer from silently loading many of the tracking tools.
- Alternative browsers Firefox and Google’s Chrome also have settings that let users block or delete cookies.
- Check out Ask Eraser, a useful privacy feature unique to Ask.com’s search engine which allows users to permanently eliminate their searches from Ask’s log files.
- Avoid using the same company for your searches and for your email account, so that linking your searches and your email identity is not possible.
Additional useful resources for online privacy can be found at the TRUSTe and Federal Trade Commission sites.