How to Stop Browser Tracking
Online adverts are one of our biggest annoyances when using the internet. And it can feel like we’re constantly bombarded by them.
To help improve the digital user experience, we previously investigated how to block ads on Macs on our Clario blog.
Though this does help you get rid of ads, it doesn’t completely free you from tracking. Because even if you’ve blocked website ads, advertisers can still watch your every move.
In fact, there are many ways to track your browsing and search history to show you personalized ads with several different techniques enabling websites to successfully harvest information. The more they know, the better for them - but not for you.
Here’s a short overview of the “advertiser’s tracking toolbox”.
- Web beacons are tiny, often only 1-pixel-large images embedded in a page or email. When a page with the web beacon is loaded, the server is notified — this way advertisers can learn who opened the page and when. Web beacons are often used together with cookies to gather information about users.
- Server logs are “registers” keeping a note of who has loaded a webpage, when, the user journey to the page, and the visitor’s IP address.
- Browser user agents are mini-applications showing information about the web browser and the user’s operating system. Advertisers gather this information and use it to make up a picture of the visitor and their online habits.
- Cookies are the most famous tracking technologies. A cookie is a string of code saved to your device. When you visit a page, the website can see the cookie and recognize you’ve previously visited. This way, websites can remember you, then recognize you and show you relevant ads.
- Flash cookies identify your unique browser settings and are a more sophisticated version of regular cookies. Even if you clear regular cookies, flash cookies will be able to restore the deleted information.
- Browser fingerprinting is a way to identify users by custom browser settings or other features such as screen settings, name and version of a web browser, installed plugins, and extensions. The combination of these features creates quite a unique portrait of the user to help websites identify them.
How to stop browser tracking in Safari
Safari features native settings to prevent website tracking. Here’s how to use them to prevent you from being tracked.
- Open Safari and click Safari -> Preferences
- Head to the Privacy tab, then select the checkboxes next to both Prevent cross-site tracking and Ask websites not to track me. This way, Safari will send the “Do not track” request when possible. However, it’s up to the website to honor this request.
How to stop browser tracking in Chrome
Chrome privacy settings are more inflexible compared with Safari, but there are still some actions you can take.
- Open Chrome and select Chrome -> Preferences
- Click Privacy and security -> More
- Click the toggle Send a “Do Not Track” request with your browsing traffic and confirm your action in the dialog box
This is probably the only setting you can turn on without any fear a website will screw up.
There are also cookie settings you can change to make your browsing more private, but this may affect some websites. If you turn on the setting and a website doesn’t work properly, remember to turn it off.
- Select Site settings in the Privacy and security section
- Click Cookies and site data
- Enable the toggle Block third-party cookies
Having these settings on will make your browsing experience a bit more private. In addition to changing the settings, you can also use a Virtual Private Network or VPN app to hide your location and encrypt your data online. Both will contribute to ensuring your privacy.
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