We Are Being Tracked Online!

On streets, highways, shopping malls, stores, offices, briefly almost everywhere are under surveillance by cameras. Authorities claim that these surveillance systems are to be used for security purposes, but there are many people oppose with this opinion.

In the online world you can think yourself free because you do not see any cameras or sensors to track you. Unfortunately, you are wrongWe can be tracked much better on the digital world.

At the top level, for example, NSA is watching the internet traffic. Simply they can see you which pages you have been browsing, if they want. How nice.

Stepping down one level, your internet service provider is also tracking the pages you have been visiting (just in case). Mostly, this data can be shared with the government and with their partners, when requested (mostly asked in case of an infringement).

Online Tracking Softwares

In the online world, there are many tiny tools making you trackable. Here is a cookie:

large
Cookies are the first example. On some websites you can see that there is a policy displayed in a small area that “by visiting this website you are accepting cookie policy, we store data on your device to recognize you”. At this point, you are exposing such information like:

– web browser you use
– platform you use (mobile, pc, etc.)
– country (sometimes location)
– language you use
– screen resolution

“Being recognized” also can mean that you can be tracked. Trackers on almost each website are falled in 5 major types, provided below:

Advertising (Delivering advertisements from a pool, as your interests, e.g. Adnet)
* Analytics (Provides research or analytics for website publishers, e.g. Alexa Metrics)
* Beacons (Trackers that serve no purpose other than tracking, e.g. conversion pixels)
* Privacy (Privacy related trackers, e.g. Trustlogo site seals)
* Widgets (A tracker provides page functionality, e.g. forms to filled)

These are divided under 50+ categories. Lets have a look at in more detail thanks to Ghostery, which I have listed in apps for higher productivity. Here are the categories:

ab-testing-1
– A/B Testing
(you’ll be testing a page with different variants to elaborate which is better)

– Affiliate Marketing 
(Defined here)
– Analytics (Here is an example)
– Audio / Music Player (lets you to play music on website)
– Behavior Tracking: Tracking your mouse, activities on website
– Commenting System (enables commenting system)
– Cookie Respawning (re-generating cookies)

– Device Fingerprinting (identification info of your device)

email-analytics-800

– Email Analytics (collecting email stats, like email client, read info, geolocation, etc.)

– Feedback
(asks you to enter feedback about something – most likely the website)
– Font System (enables font system)

– History Sniffing (tries to reveal your browsing history)

example

– In-Text Ads (ads are embedded within texts, they mostly appear as links)

– Interstitials
: Advertisements shown over the actual content mostly as a lightbox.
– Lead Management (market value discovery, performance marketing)
– Live Traffic Widget (displays live traffic information)
– Local Analytics (real time web analytics tools on website)

– Open Source (open source trackers)

tv-advertising-tutorial-overlay-ads

– Overlays
(ads mostly shown on a side of a video content)
– Polls (that you can vote)

popupunder

– Popunders
(ads popped under the actual window)
– Popups (ads popped over the actual window)

– Pornvertising
(xxx advertising)
– Search
– Segment Data (client segmentation, purchase intent, behavioral insight extraction)
– Site Optimization (seo optimization, ad personalization)
– Social (social media trackers, like buttons, etc.)
– Tag Manager (defining tags for your website to be found easily on search engines)
– Toolbar (toolbars to be installed on your web browser )
– Video Player (playing videos)
– Visitor De-anonymization (online customer convergence founder)

– Website Chat (being able to chat on website with a third party)

Avoiding Online Trackers

If you feel disturbed walking in trackers, you can use Ghostery to avoid them. But beware, silencing all of these trackers may disrupt your websurfing experience. Sometimes, you may not see forms, buttons, social media connections due to Ghostery’s blockage. To prevent, you can either whitelist the page or enable the related tracker, as shown within Ghostery.

In overall, you can use Opera as your web browser to avoid ads, as it includes internal ad blocker, speeding up drastically loading many web pages. Here is an experiment, indicating Opera’s success of surfing online.

Please also keep in mind that some websites have already started blocking adblocker-enabled web browsers from accessing their content, because they are the potential blockers of their online revenue. But yet, there are Anti-Adblock killers for them 😀

Considering mobile services, especially in Android, have you noticed that if you reject Whatsapp’s location permission, it will keep asking you to grant permission for your location? (Even though it is not necessary)

Bonus: Have you realized that Google knows you wherever you go, if you leave your location history ON? You will be terrified when you check your Google location history.

It is not just only web, story is also the same on mobile.

So, enough talk: How to avoid being tracked online?

1. Use a proxy: You can use proxy websites to hide your trails. Hidemyass is a good & popular example.

Here is a comparison of free proxy vs VPN:

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 13.25.52

2. Use a VPN: Virtual private networks (VPN) are mostly use to establish secure connections. It can be considered as one level above using a proxy, by means of security. Zenmate is a free and good VPN example that you can use free. You can use its browser addons for convenience.

3. Use Tor: Tor is a Mozilla Firefox based web browser, working on Torrent network. Tor is a free software and an open network defending you from traffic analysis and network surveillance to preserve your privacy. Here is a small slideshow, showing how Tor works:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you dig into Tor, you’ll also see that you are only surfing on the webpages that search engines can see. There are web pages, called dark web, where you can’t be tracked.

Share my article if you like, please share your experiences so we can learn further.

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