Online Tracking

Have you ever wondered how a website (i.e. Facebook) knows what you searched for on another website, (i.e. Macy’s)? Yahoo Tech explains the fundamentals of Online Tracking. Loosely, 

“First, When you visit a visit a Web site that contains ads, those ads leave behind text files on your computer called ‘tracking cookies’. These files contain a combination of letters and numbers — kind of like a license plate on steroids — that identify your particular browser on your particular computer. Next, When you visit a new Web page, the machines that deliver ads check your cookies, find your unique ID, and record information about your online behavior.”

urlThis is exactly  what the term Targeted Advertising means: The ads  (or pop-ups) you see are personalized based on what you do online – your search history. Chrome, Google, Safari all know your likes and dislikes because you have told them! Yes, your browser is stalking you. Yes, your browser is stalking you. Yes, your browser is stalking you. The next obvious question is, Why do we see ads on (almost) every site? Money, of course! The people who place those ads and successfully “target” or “lure” you into re-visiting the site where you saw that handbag get paid – for every click and even more for every purchase! There are no ads on because I am not running this site for monetary gain – at the moment, it’s a just hobby.

Lots of people use browser ad-ons like AdBlock Plus to prevent this type of tracking – just be aware that AdBlock may also prevent pop-up windows on sites like banks and that you’ll have to manually check the option to “Always Allows” pop-ups from these sites. Often times there are options to “opt-out” ads if you look closely (just like the Unsubscribe feature most people miss at the very bottom of emails.