If you feel like you are being followed around when you are on the internet, you are probably not just paranoid. You are, indeed, being targeted!
Everything that you see and do while you are online is being tracked and “personalized” (i.e. changed without you even knowing it!). “But, why?” you might ask.
It’s simple, really: there is big money to be made in – let’s just call it what it is – violating your privacy. There are advertising companies and personal data vendors that profit from every piece of information you give them – knowingly or unknowingly! There are companies prepared to pay well for as much information about their customers that they can possibly get.
What can you do to prevent them from snooping? How to keep your private data – private?
Remember: “If you are not paying for a service, you’re the product – not the customer”. While you are using a “free” product or a service, the company providing its product or service for free is busy collecting information about you – your demographics, income, and buying habits.
The collected data is then used to target you as a potential customer and to convince you – and knowing a lot about you, that is being done as effectively as possible – to buy their other, non-free stuff. Or, it is simply being sold to other companies.
Some people think that it doesn’t matter if their private data is being accessed, because “they are not that important” and they “have nothing to hide”. These people are wrong: their information is much more valuable than they think it is!
To browse in peace, install some kind of a privacy add-on or extension in your browser that stops websites from transmitting your data to third parties and following you across websites. Almost every browser nowadays allows you to use some sort of “incognito” or “privacy mode” setting to protect your privacy: explore how that option works on your favorite browser.
Remember to log out every time you’re finished using a website, and clear your cookies after each browsing session. These are just basic, commonsense things you can do to protect your privacy, but can go a long way.
When a website you are not sure about asks for a lot of personal information, you can always provide them with false data. That will stop them from “profiling” you. However, if a website doesn’t look trustworthy, it is best to just delete your account altogether, or even better – don’t deal with them in the first place.