By Will from Holland
The other day a friend of mine came over to my place and we started looking at stuff on the Internet. We watched some funny YouTube videos and checked the swell report for the surf. She showed me her hometown back in England, Frinton on Sea, on an Internet map site. All quite innocent, I'd say.
However, the next day I noticed that my newspaper website was displaying ads for hotels and holidays in Frinton on Sea! How the heck did that happen?
Ever notice that ads in your webmail or ads on websites that you've visited show items that are targeted towards your interests? Stuff you've recently been searching for on the web? Stuff you recently emailed back and forth about with friends?
Welcome to the era of tracking programs! No more "safe" surfing for us, my friends.
Sure, you can block cookies* on your computer, but have you ever heard of supercookies, ubercookies, Flash cookies and DOM Cookies** ?
Neither had I, but they are literally following your every move on the Internet. Plus, they are not removed when you remove regular cookies from your computer!
So, why should I care about people tracking what I do and what I search for?
Because the more information about you out there, the greater likelihood that your identity could be stolen and/or your accounts and credit cards can be hacked.
So how can you protect yourself?
There are a bunch of things you can do, though keeping your computer completely clean is as hard as keeping your dorm-room spotless… It basically never happens!
Here are a couple of pointers:
- You can download various free programs & browser plugins. Make sure you have at least 1 program/plugin in place that helps you delete tracking software! Here are a few:
- When browsing use a couple of different search engines rather than just using Google or Yahoo. This makes it harder for the trackers to gather info on you.
- Also, use a different search engine for your searches and for your webmail. Use Gmail? Search in Yahoo or vice versa.
What else can you do? (Or need to do, really.)
There's plenty more that you can do when it comes to (web) safety. For instance, ever heard of "Evil Twins, Phishing or Pharming"? If not, be sure to explore other (related) articles on this website!
Good luck out there. Doing a couple of these things will really make a difference. (Well, it did for me!)
Hope this helps. See you next time.
* Regular Cookies: a small piece of software that stores information (like your username for your webmail) on your computer. However, this can also be used for tracking your web moves!
Delete cookies: www.allaboutcookies.org
** A detailed look at advanced cookies: http://33bits.org/2010/02/18/cookies-supercookies-and-ubercookies-stealing-the-identity-of-web-visitors/