Web tracking entails collecting users’ data on the internet. The process involves tracking technologies such as cookies, web beacons, and browser fingerprints. Websites, advertisers, and data brokers often use tracking data to target users with personalized ads, measure website traffic, and create user profiles.
Tracking your web activity raises significant concerns because it invades your privacy, targets you with personalized ads, and makes you vulnerable to data and privacy breaches and other cyberattacks. Therefore, you must know the extent of tracking on a website and take the necessary steps to protect your privacy.
Some effective ways of preventing web tracking include using anti-tracking software and browser extensions and being conscious of your internet activity. Anti-tracking software and browser extensions are great options for privacy-focused internet usage that doesn’t track your activity or collect personal information.
Understanding why you’re being tracked and the ways of tracking helps you make informed decisions about how to avoid web tracking.
The quick list of our top anti-tracking software
Here is a quick look at some of the best anti-tracking software:
- Virtual Private Network (VPN): A VPN encrypts your internet connection, making your web activity private. Reliable VPNs route your connection across different servers spread worldwide.
- DuckDuckGo extension: DuckDuckGo browser extension blocks web trackers and encrypts your search queries. The extension also provides you with a private search engine and the ability to view who is attempting to track your activity.
- Tor Browser: It is a privacy-focused anti-tracking software that routes your network connection through a wide range of decentralized server networks.
- Avast AntiTrack: This anti-tracking software protects your web activity by hiding your IP address. It also alerts you if any third party attempts to track you, filters spam messages, and deletes browser history.
- Freenet: The program runs on a P2P platform, allowing users to communicate freely in a decentralized network.
- Disconnect: This tool protects you from targeted ads, phishing, malware, and hackers. In addition, the program can disconnect itself once it detects that a website is retaining your private information.
- Norton AntiTrack: This anti-tracking software is great if you’re looking to hide your internet activity. Norton anti-track blocks third parties from accessing your fingerprint and alerts you to block them.
- Brave: Brave is a popular anti-tracking software known for its ability to improve your browsing experience. The tool blocks pop-up ads and spam messages.
- Privacy Badger: The tool is easy to run and doesn’t require much configuration. In addition, it can easily detect trackers and prevent them from collecting personal information.
- Malwarebytes: Malwarebyte anti-tracking software focuses primarily on malware. It scans files and detects infected ones. Malware-infected files are quarantined to prevent them from compromising your security.
- AdGuard: It blocks trackers and gives you more control over your personal information. It is compatible with various devices, including macOS, Android, iOS, and Windows.
- Adblock Plus: Offers ad-blocking services and enhanced tracking disabling for web trackers and advertisers.
- Ghostery: Improves anonymity by ensuring your browsing data is hidden from third parties
- TrackOff: Offers critical security features such as real-time threat detection, biometric safety, and VPN encryption to protect users from web tracking.
- TotalAV Antivirus: The anti-tracking software encrypts your internet usage, thus hiding you from trackers and ISP.
- Privoxy: Provides you with the freedom to manage trackers and cookies and personalize your browsing experience.
- Kamo: It’s capable of auto-cleaning cookies and allows you to safelist specific websites.
- uBlock Origin: An open-source browser extension that blocks web tracking scripts and ads.
- AVG AntiTrack: Automatically blocks tracking attempts on all web pages and alerts you when a website attempts to track your activity.
What is web tracking?
Web tracking is not new, as you have already experienced it using the internet. Specifically, web tracking refers to collecting personal data about an individual’s activity on the internet. This can include information about the websites you visit, browsing history, movies you stream, online games, IP address, the links you click on, and the search terms you use.
Most organizations use the collected data for targeted advertising, marketing, and analytics.
Why you’re being tracked?
Websites track users for a variety of reasons, including:
- Targeted advertising: By collecting data about browsing habits and interests, websites can display more relevant, interest-based ads. It can increase your chances of clicking on the ad and ultimately lead to more sales or conversions for the website.
- Analytics: Organizations can gain insights into improving user experience and making the website more effective by gathering data about how they interact with a website. This can help understand how to design the website, structure the content, and which features are more popular among users.
- Personalization: By tracking your internet behavior, websites can personalize the content and features for your liking, making them more useful.
- Business Intelligence: Tracking is a way of gaining insights into market trends, consumer preferences and behavior, and other information that can inform strategic business decisions.
- Security: Some websites use tracking to detect and prevent fraudulent or malicious activity on their site.
- Monitoring: Government and law enforcement agencies may also use tracking to monitor users for potential crime-related activities.
The critical point here is that not all online tracking serves nefarious purposes. However, it is crucial to understand why data is being collected and how trackers use your personal information.
Ways you’re being tracked online
Online tracking can happen through different methods. The way you’re being tracked entirely depends on the tracker’s preferred method. Some standard methods of tracking include:
- Browser fingerprinting: Websites can track your web activity by collecting data about your browser settings, installed fonts, and other unique device characteristics. Trackers then use this information to create a unique fingerprint of your browser, which can be used for tracking across different websites.
- Web beacons: These are also known as tracking beacons or web bugs. They are small images that are embedded in web pages or emails. Web beacons can track your internet behavior, such as how long you stayed on a specific web page or whether a link was clicked in the email.
- IP addresses: Each internet-enabled device has an identifiable ID known as an IP address that provides information such as your location and internet service provider (ISP). Websites can use an IP address to track your activity on different sites.
- Account tracking: Web trackers monitor your online activity while you’re signed into various online platforms. However, you have to grant permission for tracking to take place.
- Mouse tracking: Under this type of web tracking, trackers use tracking software that records your cursor movements to understand your web activity.
- Cross-device tracking: The method is also known as probabilistic or deterministic tracking. It entails matching your online habits across different devices.
- Click-through rate: This strategy entails measuring the number of times a user clicks on certain content. It’s mostly used in advertising.
- Social media plugins: Many websites include social media plugins, such as Facebook, Likee, or Twitter share buttons. These plugins can track your activity even if you don’t interact with the button.
- Analytics software: Trackers can use software such as Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, and Piwik to track your internet behavior.
Should I be concerned with website tracking?
Although web-tracking technology has various benefits to businesses, especially their advertising strategies, the practice has its downsides too. With the increasing cases of unethical and unlawful use of personal data by multinational companies, individuals have become more skeptical about their data privacy.
Website tracking can potentially reveal sensitive information about your browsing habits, interests, and location. As a result, some people may be concerned about sharing or selling this information to third parties without their consent.