Monday, 11 May 2015

They are watching you!

It should come as no surprise, well not unless you have been moored up a back creek avoiding CaRT's enforcement team for the last decade. Even the most naive computer users are well aware that on-line marketers track where we go on-line. Using that tracking information to further inundate us with targeted advertising. How they do it is not important - just the fact that they can do it is all you need to know. However the extent of that tracking capability isn’t as well known. 
Simply viewing a website without clicking any links will give marketers and a surprising amount of detailed and possibly personal information. Each time you load a new web-page, the on-line server for that page will know, at a minimum, your IP address, the date and time and the web-page you were on when you moved to the new page. However  Web servers can gather and share so much more. Visit Facebook, Twitter or Google, or virtually any other website and your personal information isn’t just retained. Data collected about you and your browsing habits are often shared with numerous third parties typically for targeted advertising.
Here is the rub, much of this information can come from your own PC. When you download a webpage, you often get cookies loaded onto your PC. Some of them are tracking cookies and contain activity-tracking code.  Basic cookies store information that information could, however, include passwords and credit-card numbers. Moreover, most cookie activity is hidden from website visitors. Cookies in this context are small files almost every website saves on your computer. The files store your settings and preferences so that you don't have to re-enter the same information over and over. These "first-party" cookies are usually harmless.

However, there are other types of cookies called third-party cookies. These are the ones that spy on you and track you from site to site.  To get rid of the third-party cookies you already have on your PC. First grab a free cleaning program like CCleaner. It will offer to clean up the cookies on your hard drive, and it can target just third-party cookies. Once the third-party cookies are gone, you need to change your browser settings to keep them away.
For Internet Explorer: click on the gear in the top-right corner and select Internet Options. Go to the Privacy tab and click the Advanced button. Check the "Override automatic cookie handling" option, and then set "Third-party Cookies" to "Block." Click the OK button.

For Google Chrome: click the three-lined icon in the top-right corner of your screen and select Settings. Under the Settings section, click the "Show advanced settings" link at the bottom. In the Privacy section, click on the Content Settings button. Under Cookies, check the "Block third-party cookies and site data" option and click Done.

For Firefox: click the three-lined icon in the top-right corner of your screen and select Options (PC) or Preferences (Mac). Go to the Privacy tab and under History, set "Firefox will" to "Use custom settings for history." Then set "Accept third-party cookies" to "Never."

For Safari: third-party cookies are turned off by default, but it never hurts to double check. Pull down the Safari menu and select the Privacy tab. Choose the option to block cookies from third parties and advertisers.

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