How Did You Know What I Was Searching For?

Do you ever find yourself wondering how you get advertising about items that you search for on the web? If you are into social media, you may have seen an ad for that new TV you were shopping for.

Or maybe an email for a new car insurance company? The simple explanation is that at some point while browsing, you clicked on a link (as we all do), and that is where the tracking begins.

There are a number of ways for web developers to track your web activity, but tracking cookies are arguably the most effective. Cookies are simple text files stored on a user’s computer which are acquired when browsing a website.

These files hold specific website data that is accessed by either the web server or the client computer - data which allows a website to identify you and remember who you are.

Related to the standard cookie, tracking cookies can be very useful for marketing and advertising.  Tracking cookies, much like regular cookies, record your browsing history and report back to locations specified by the web designer.

This data is generally collated for marketing purposes but can also be sent back to a remote database for analysis. Analysis of browsing behavior helps paint a picture of your web browsing habits, and with this information sites are able to tailor your browsing experience to that which is most relevant to you.

This is great for the marketing folks and the sites you are visiting but I find it to be a little on the scary side as a consumer!

I personally do not like tracking cookies. The idea of being analyzed based on my browsing history seems a bit invasive. If you share the same feeling, there are a few things you can do to block or prevent some of these cookies:

  1. Clear your cookies regularly. Under your browser’s “Privacy Settings” you will usually find the option to delete all cookies.
  2. You can change your privacy settings to determine which level of access cookies should have. This can minimize the amount of tracking cookies on your computer.
  3. Block them entirely. One of the most effective ways is to block third party cookies from your web browser. If the cookies don’t exist, it’s hard for them to do their job.

There is also an “opt-out” website that works similar to a “Do Not Call” list. This “opt-out” site places cookies on your Internet browser to prevent tracking cookies from collecting information. Since I have not found this to be as effective as I would like, I simply prefer to block cookies entirely.

To some, tracking cookies may be great – especially the companies that use them to their fullest extent. To others, being tracked by a cookie is just like getting a phone call from a telemarketer, except it is happening all the time without you knowing, rather than just during dinner J.

Always be cautious while browsing the web - you never know who is watching.  Not sure if you are still being tracked?  Contact The TNS Group and we will walk you through the steps.

Categories: Managed Service Provider, MSP Blogs