It’s not your imagination—you ARE being followed.
Chances are, you’ve seen some Internet ads that are eerily prescient. You make an online reservation for a restaurant, and when you’re visiting an entirely unrelated website, there are ads for that restaurant in the sidebar. You run a Google search for dog food, and suddenly there are pet-related ads everywhere you go—including your email and Facebook account.
This is browser-based ad tracking at work.
Whenever you’re online, your clicks and visits are captured and sent to various big corporations, small ad firms, and traffic-logging sites. More than 100 companies could be receiving reports about your activity at any given time, including Google and Microsoft.
No cause for alarm
While this may sound like the worst kind of paranoid nightmare, the data collected by traffic loggers is harmless. There’s no personal information attached—these companies will never know your name, address, or checking account information.
Basically, the new paradigm for ad tracking amounts to a somewhat creepy nuisance. And if you don’t want to keep running into a bunch of mind-reading banners or text ads that know where you’ve been online, you can stop the bombardment.
Lose the browser-based blitz
The online privacy company Abine offers a program called Do Not Track Plus. This unobtrusive add-on blocks more than 600 trackers, automatically updating to catch new tracking programs. It lets you browse safely and freely, without having to wonder who’s following you around the web.
Available for PC and Mac platforms, Do Not Track Plus is compatible with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari browsers. The program is free to download here.